420: How It All Started

Everyone with the slightest connection to marijuana knows that “420″ is code for weed, or the time to smoke it, or something like that. But when you have a magazine called The 420 Times, you should know the real story behind 420. And since we do, so so will you.

You won’t be surprised to learn that it involves a bunch of high school kids in California. This particular bunch went to San Rafael High School and called themselves “The Waldos” because, well, they used to meet by a wall. One day in 1971 they heard a rumor that there was a secret crop of marijuana hidden somewhere in the area, so they came up with a plan to find it.

450px 420Louis 225x300 420: How It All Started

The Famous 420 Statue

They decided to meet every day after school, by a statue of Louis Pasteur, at 4:20 PM. Then they got in a car, hotboxed it to a fare-thee-well, and went searching for the Mythical Garden Of Grass.

They never found the Golden Stash, but started using “420″ as code for their meetings, then as a general code for weed or weed-related activities in general (just like it’s used today).

And that might have been the end of it, except that San Rafael is in Marin County, and several of the Waldos had family connections to the Grateful Dead. Their use of “420″ as code for marijuana quickly spread through the backstage denizens of the Dead, and then through the entire Deadhead community. You know, those happy folks who followed the Dead from town to town, bringing their happiness, weed, and language with them everywhere they went…?

You know the rest. Now “420″ means weed in any context. Is it 4:20 yet? Time to smoke. “420-friendly” to renters on Craigslist means you won’t be hassled when you move in with your bong. And of course, April 20 (4/20) is pretty much party day everywhere, involving actual organized smoking activities, even where illegal.

It’s also been slipped into more movies than you’d care to count; not just traditional “stoner flicks” but also things like Fast Times At Ridgemont High and Pulp Fiction. But perhaps the best “slip job” was the one that permanently encoded 420 in the law…marijuana law, no less.

The Compassionate Use Act of 1996, California’s groundbreaking legislation that made medical marijuana legal for the first time, was not actually passed by the legislators themselves, but by direct democracy as Proposition 215. When the California legislators finally got around to solidifying some of the unclear concepts in Prop. 215, they passed it as Senate Bill 420 for all the world to see.

Cosmic Significance

But wait, there’s more.

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy, the mega-super-duper-computer Deep  Throat calculates the answer to “Life, the Universe, and Everything” to be precisely 42, which is clearly just 10% of a perfect 420.

And in what is clearly either an incredible coincidence or proof that God is not only playing dice with the universe, but smoking fatties while he rolls them bones, the first-ever intentional LSD trip was taken by Dr. Albert Hofmann way back in 1943 at exactly 4:20 PM (and it was on April 19…damn! So close!).

Bob Dylan Is A Time Lord

There’s also Bob Dylan’s immortal party song, Rainy Day Women #12 and 35, with its subtle chorus, “Everybody must get stoned!”. No question about what Dylan meant by “stoned”, either, since he made a practice of smoking a joint or two before performing that particular song. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also the guy who turned The Beatles on to weed.

Dylan fans need no further proof that their guy is omniscient, since that song was released on Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde album in 1966, before any of the Waldos even got to high school.

12 x 35 = 420.

What a wild world with weed!


Old Hippie is a MMJ patient living somewhere in the wilds of California whose only link with the real world is a 420 MHz radio. He blogs on BeyondChronic.com and vapes on Sour Diesel.

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