Marijuana for recreational use has been legalized in 18 states and the district of Columbia over the last decade. You’ve probably heard that the numerals 420 has a special meaning in cannabis culture whether you know a lot or a little about marijuana.
What is the origin of “420”?
In Wikipedia, you can get some details about the “420”. In 1971, five high school students in San Rafael, California, used the term “4:20” in connection with a plan to search for an abandoned cannabis crop, based on a treasure map made by the grower. Calling themselves the Waldos, because their typical hang-out spot “was a wall outside the school”, the five students- Steve Capper, Dave reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich- designed the Louis Pasteur statue on the grounds of San Rafael High School as their meeting place, and 4:20 pm as their meeting time. The Waldos referred to this plan with the phrase “4:20 Louis”. After several failed attempts to find the crop, the group eventually shortened their phrase to “4:20”, which ultimately evolved into a code-word the teens used to refer to consuming cannabis.
Steven Hager of High Times popularized the story of the Waldos. The first High Times mention of 4:20 smoking and a 4/20 holiday appeared in May 1991 and erroneously attributed the origin of the term to a police code; this and other spurious incorrect origin stories became common. The connection to the Waldos appeared in December 1998. Hager attributed the early spread of the phrase to Grateful Dead followers- after "Waldo" Reddix became a roadie for the Grateful Dead's bassist, Phil Lesh—and called for 4:20 pm to be the socially accepted time of the day to consume cannabis.
Nowadays, 420 is the day that tens of thousands of Americans gather around the country to celebrate marijuana. It becomes a holiday celebrating cannabis.
But as support for marijuana legalization grows, the festivities are becoming more mainstream and commercialized. As a result, marijuana businesses are looking to leverage the holiday to find more ways to sell and market their products. This puts 4/20’s current iteration in sharp contrast to the holiday once embraced by a counterculture movement largely made up of hippies and others who decried greed, corporate influences, and all things mainstream. And that tells us a lot about how cannabis is changing in America as marijuana is legalized.