The term 420 has been synonymous with marijuana culture for almost 50 years. There have been countless myths related to its origin ranging from police codes to Hitler’s birthday to the number of chemicals in a marijuana plant (500, actually) to the product of multiplying the number in Bob Dylan’s song “Rainy Day Women 12 & 35.”
A song known for the famous, “everybody must get stoned…” line.
The actual story begins in 1971 in San Rafael, California with a group of high school buddies who called themselves the Waldos. Everyday after school they would hangout against a certain wall. One afternoon their friend, Bill Mcnulty, gave them a treasure map to a secret marijuana crop.
Bill received the map from Gary Newman, a Coast Guard Service member stationed at a historic lighthouse in nearby Point Reyes who planted and maintained the crop but could no longer take care of it.
The Waldos would meet every day after school at a statue of Louis Pasteur at 4:20 pm before getting high and driving 40 minutes to Point Reyes to search for the crop. As luck would have it, the Waldos never found the crop. But the code they used to get high: “4:20 Louis” eventually evolved to just “420” spread through Marin County and eventually made its way into the collective lexicon.
Being that this was the Seventies in Northern California and involved weed, the Waldos eventually found themselves in the circle of the Grateful Dead who quickly adopted 4:20 as well. The Dead would incessantly tour the world for almost three decades undoubtedly helped to spread the designated time.
In 2012, the Waldos publicly claimed the creation of 420. Going so far as to produce postmarked notes they’d held onto since the Seventies. Those documents are now in a safety deposit box in an undisclosed location. Skeptics began coming out of the woodwork declaring usage of 420 before the Waldos, even with their physical evidence.
This led to another hunt, this time for the lighthouse keeper, Gary Newman. Bill Mcnulty, their friend who’s originally bestowed the treasure map upon them, had passed away. After many years of clues, tips and private investigators, they were able to track down Newman in 2016, now homeless, living in San Jose. The Waldo’s were able to meet up with Newman and corroborate their story.
International Weed Day goes global
Throughout its existence, 420 has evolved from stoner code throughout the land to an actual civil disobedience holiday 4/20 or International Weed Day as it’s also known.
Often viewed as a sister holiday to Earth Day (4/22), 4/20 protests are held in major cities around the world in order to increase awareness of the potential positive uses for Cannabis and Hemp products as well as to bring awareness to social justice movements.
In 2003, California introduced bill 420 to regulate the use of medical marijuana. On April 20th, 2018, Senate Majority leader, Chuck Schumer (NY-D) announced The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, if enacted would decriminalize marijuana in the United States.
Beyond the socioeconomic and political implications, 420 has also become the “Brooklyn” equivalent of Cannabis branding, being used in everything: clothing, beer, liquor and food.
In the burgeoning medical marijuana, CBD and dispensary world 420 is often used to promote brand quality. Online, 420 was used in countless personal ads and social media posts.
There isn’t just one meaning behind 420. In fact, it means a lot of things to a lot of different people. To a group of lifelong friends it was a secret code to a long-lasting fraternity and notoriety, to a whole community of people it represents personal freedom and the hope for a more progressive inclusive society and for others it’s a brand the denotes quality and responsibility. Whatever it means to you, happy 420.