420 Meaning - The True Story of 420

3 min read
420 history

The term 420 is well known in the cannabis community. Everythingfor420.com has branded its entire business on the cultural buzzword, taking the concept a step further. They sell all of the tools you need to utilize the cannabis plant from  pipes, to  bongs, to  rolling papers,  grinders and more  for only $4.20. But where did the term originate?

The history of 4/20 and why we celebrate it today

Some believe the origin dates back to 1970s California where it is said 420 was the police code for marijuana smoking. 420 is not the police code or penal code for anything relating to marijuana. In California, 420 actually refers to obstructing entry on public land.

Others claim there are 420 chemical compounds in the cannabis plant. According to the book, “Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutic Potential” there are 483 chemical compounds in the cannabis plant.

When asked, some will suggest that April 20th is the date that some famous musicians associated with the cannabis culture such as Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, or Jim Morrison died. This is also false. While it is true that Hitler was born on April 20th and the massacre of 13 students at Columbine High School in Colorado occurred on April 20, 1999, these grim events don’t seem to have much to do with marijuana or the cannabis culture.

One popular theory goes that 4:20pm is the time when high schoolers get out of class, chill with their friends, and smoke. This is slightly closer to the truth.

Most official sources including the Huffington Post, Wikipedia, High Times, Snopes and more say the true origin of 420 goes back to a group of five friends who went to San Rafael high school. The boys were known as the Waldos because they liked to hang out on a wall outside the school. They hatched a plan to search for a legendary abandoned cannabis crop. They agreed to meet at a statue of Louis Pasteur at 4:20. Their code for the mission was, “4:20, Louis.” After several failed attempts, they shortened the term to just, “4:20.” Eventually, they just started using the term to refer to a time to get together and smoke.

Louis Pasteur statue


Little did the Waldos know this term would become ubiquitous the world over for smoking cannabis products. Eventually a writer for High Times published a story taking the term from a group of five friends to a worldwide audience.

The term took on even more significance as the date of April 20th became both a smoker’s holiday and a day of activism. First, groups would gather shortly after 4pm on April 20th to light up as an act of civil disobedience. As states began to legalizing marijuana, large festivals have started being held in Colorado, Washington, California and more on April 20th to celebrate freedom, expression, and a way of life and to help spread the ideas of cannabis culture.

420 festival


Regardless of where this term originated 4:20 pm is now a popular time to light up. 420 is a widely used term to refer to pot and marijuana and April 20th is a day where people around the world come together to celebrate and advocate for the legalization and cultural acceptance of cannabis culture.

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