With our favorite stoner holiday approaching, there’s bound to be table talk about where the term 420 originated. There are tons of theories as to how it became so widely celebrated, so we want to narrow it down to what we believe could have been the true origin.
Some Incorrect Theories
Ever since 4/20 started becoming well known, the folklore about it snowballed. Many believed it was named after the number of active molecules in cannabis, while others spread the idea that Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35” coined the term (12 multiplied by 35 equals 420).
One of the most popular theories is that “420” was the police code for marijuana. However, it’s actually thought that “420” came from a group of high school athletes who liked to partake in a little bud after practice. We love the fact that 4/20 came from fun loving kids, not the authorities when those kids were about to be busted.
The True Stoner Tale
According to this particular origin story, it was a sunny fall day in California, circa 1971. A group of five teenagers somehow learned about a Coast Guard member that could no longer tend to his cannabis plant. Some say the plant’s owner provided them with a treasure map to the abandoned plant, which honestly sounds like this man was playing a practical joke on these kids. Nevertheless, the boys would frequently meet after practice to search for the goods—at 4:20 p.m., to be exact.
They would start using the term “420 Louis,” eventually just “420,” to each other in the halls when they wanted to gather. At 4:20, they’d meet at the Louis Pasteur statue outside the high school. Then it was time to smoke a couple doobies in the car before setting out on their search through the Point Reyes Forest.
There is a bit of a sad twist to this story—they never found the bud. I guess that Coast Guard member was just messing with them after all. At least they had a reason to gather together for some good high fun. Plus, they became famous in their own way.
So how the term “420” make its way outside that San Rafael high school? The group had many connections with the Grateful Dead. You can imagine how it escalated from there. They’d use the phrase when passing around a joint backstage, and eventually it spread throughout the entire Dead community. From there, it became international.
“420” just has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Even if it didn’t, we love celebrating our favorite herb, regardless of where the term came from.