What does 420 mean? There are varying theories on the origin of 420. Some say that 420 originated from a police code that announces that marijuana use is taking place. Yet another story is that a group of guys in the 1970’s made 4:20 their official meeting time to smoke marijuana after school.
According to Steven Hager, editor of High Times, the term 420 originated at San Rafael High School, San Rafael, California in 1971. The group consisted of about a dozen pot-smoking wiseacres who called themselves the Waldos, who are now pushing 60. The term was shorthand for the time of day the group would meet, at the campus statue of Louis Pasteur, to smoke pot. Intent on developing their own discreet language, they made 420 code for a time to get high, and its use spread among members of an entire generation.
40 years later, 420 is firmly established as a code amongst tokers, a time of day and even sort of a toker’s New Year’s Day. It’s in our culture now and only time will tell where it ends up.
Whatever meaning of this number, date and time that you prefer, 420 has been an important part of the marijuana culture since the 1970’s. The significance of 420 has been kept underground and is mostly known only among marijuana smokers. Many non-smokers aren’t aware of the symbolism when they see someone wearing a T-shirt or baseball cap that says 420 across the front.
Simply put, 420 is a symbol of cannabis and its culture. Today, April 20th events are international, and 4:20 pm has become sort of a world wide “burn time“.
Known 420 Myths
- Police dispatch code for smoking pot is 420.
The number 420 is not police radio code for anything, anywhere. Checks of criminal codes suggest that the origin is neither Californian nor federal. For instance, California Penal Code 420 defines as a misdemeanor the hindrance of use of public lands.
- There are approximately 420 active chemicals in marijuana.
Actually, there are approximately 315 active chemicals in marijuana. This number goes up and down depending on which plant is used.
- April 20th is National Pot Smokers Day.
Well, it is now :) ; but that wasn’t the origin.
- April 20th is Hitler’s birthday.
Yes, it is his birthday. But, as 420 started out as a time, not a date, his birthday had nothing to do with it.
- The date of the Columbine school shootings.
This happened after the term was already in use.
- 4:20 is tea time for pot-smokers in Holland.
Tea time in Holland is at 5:30 pm, or is it 2:30 pm? Seems no one is quite sure when the wonderful people of Holland drink their tea.
Whichever way you plan to celebrate this number…Happy 420!