The Myths Behind 420, From Hitler’s Birthday to Bob Marley’s Death

Although 420 is a well-known term commonly used to refer to weed, its true beginnings are often unknown.

Pop-culture references related to the origins of 420 and its myths.

Although 420 is a well-known term commonly used to refer to weed, its true beginnings are often unknown and the subject of many myths.

What is the meaning of 420 and where did it come from? Let’s take a look at how the origin of 420 evolved over time to become the widely used pop-culture term we are familiar with today.

Continue Reading Below
Continue Reading Below

The Historical Origins of 420

According to an interview published by the Huffington Post, 420 began with a group of San Rafael High School friends who called themselves the Waldos. Here is their story:

In fall of 1971, the Waldos heard that a service member from the Coast Guard had planted weed near the Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard station, but was unable to tend it. The Waldos got a map and decided to go on “treasure hunts.” They agreed to meet at the statue of Louis Pasteur outside their school at 4:20 to begin each hunt. In order to remind each other, they’d utter “4:20 Louis” in the hallways (the “Louis” was later dropped).

Continue Reading Below

They did this for weeks without success. Although they never found the marijuana plants, the term they’d used to remind each other of the hunt lives on. Instead of asking each other if they wanted to go out back and smoke, they’d simply say, “420?” And their teachers and parents were none the wiser.

Continue Reading Below

The Grateful Dead’s Contribution to 420

You’re probably wondering how the term 420 went from the Waldo’s inside joke, to being one of the most widely used marijuana terms in pop culture. To answer that, we must rewind and take a look at an unlikely source – an influential 1960’s rock band, The Grateful Dead.

Continue Reading Below

The Grateful Dead performing live on stage

One of the Waldos had a father who took care of real estate for the Grateful Dead and a brother who managed their sideband. When hanging out with the band, members of the Waldos used the term and it spread throughout the community.

Continue Reading Below

High Times picked up the story of 420 years later in 1991, which helped to propel the term into the mainstream. High Times eventually bought the web domain 420.com, and the legacy continued.

Continue Reading Below

The Waldos never made any money off of their term, but they found success elsewhere: two work at a lending institution, one leads marketing at a Napa Valley winery, one is in printing and graphics, and one works for a roofing and gutter company. They stay in touch with each other, too.

Continue Reading Below

The Myths of 420

Now that we have explored the origins of 420, let’s look at where it didn’t come from. Here are some of the most circulated misconceptions about the history of 420:

Myth 1. It’s the date Bob Marley died

Bob Marley performing live on stage.

Continue Reading Below

True/False: FALSE

 Bob Marley actually died on May 11, 1981 (he was born February 6, 1945.) Although the date 4/20 is not directly tied to Bob Marley, Marley and his music have become an international symbol for love, peace, and weed. Which means when April 20th rolls around, Bob Marley and marijuana will be celebrated hand-in-hand.

Continue Reading Below
Continue Reading Below

Myth 2. It’s Adolf Hitler’s birthday

True/False: FALSE

April 20th is Hitler’s birthday, but this is simply coincidental. There is no source that legitimizes a connection between 420 as a cultural term, and Hitler’s date of birth.

Continue Reading Below

Myth 3. There’s 420 chemical compounds in cannabis

True/False: FALSE

Close, but no cigar (or joint). The National Institutes of Health state that there are more than 400 chemicals in the cannabis plant. However, they don’t give the exact number of 420. Other sources state that cannabis contains around 350 chemicals.

Continue Reading Below

Myth 4. The number on the House Bill to legalize weed is 420

Downtown Sacramento, California capital dome building

True/False: SEMI-TRUE

Continue Reading Below

Part of this myth is accurate: the California Senate Bill 420 would no longer classify marijuana as a controlled substance, and would instead regulate marijuana like alcohol.

Continue Reading Below

However, the bill was passed in 2003 and 420 as a pop-culture term was minted well before any talk of legalizing marijuana. As mentioned above, articles were being published about the term as early as 1991.

Continue Reading Below

Myth 5. It’s Police Code for Marijuana

True/False: FALSE

420 is not a universal police code for marijuana or marijuana-related crimes. It is a valid police code in some jurisdictions: in Las Vegas, for example, it’s the code for homicide.

Continue Reading Below

Myth 6. April 20th is the best time to plant weed

True/False: FALSE

Continue Reading Below

The best time to plant weed depends on where you live, your method of growing and the strain. You may find circumstances where April is indeed the best month to plant pot, but it’s not accurate to pin it down to a one-day window.

Continue Reading Below

Luckily, we have more articles about how to grow a plant in your home and when to plant and harvest cannabis plants if you would like more information.

Continue Reading Below

Myth 7. 420 is from a Bob Dylan song

True/False: PROBABLY FALSE

In Dylan’s “Rainy Day Woman #12 and 35,” he repeatedly sings, “Everybody must get stoned!” It is true that 12 multiplied by 35 is 420.

Continue Reading Below

However, there is a lack of information to either confirm or deny that this is the official origin of 420. Time magazine claims this origin as completely false.

Continue Reading Below

420, Today

Here and now, 420 is fully immersed in cannabis culture. It is referenced in a variety of movies, books, websites, and songs. People get together on April 20th at 4:20 for massive smoke-outs, even going so far as to steal road signs that feature the number.

Continue Reading Below

This just goes to show, anything has the potential to spread like wildfire and become part of our everyday vernacular.

The Myths Behind 420, From Hitler’s Birthday to Bob Marley’s Death was last modified: by