Have you ever wondered where the 420 association with marijuana came from? I’ve heard theories ranging from: it’s the date marijuana was decriminalized in the Netherlands, to its Hitler’s birthday (because when you think pot, you think Nazis, right?). While neither of these are the true connection, the actual story is just as interesting and involves the Grateful Dead, believe it or not!
It begins in San Rafael, California in 1971 with five pot-headed high school students named Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich. Meeting up regularly to toke up at a wall outside their school, the group began calling themselves the Waldos. Having obtained a supposed “treasure map” from a grower that would supposedly lead them to a lost crop of cannabis, the team designated a Louis Pasteur statue as the 4:20pm meet-up place to begin the hunt for the fabled find and used the code phrase “4:20 Louis” in conversations concerning the quest. After coming up short on their searches a number of times, the Waldos eventually shortened the code to “420”. From there the term spread out and became synonymous with smoking weed – but, how?
It seems unlikely that such a cultural phenomenon spread from five unlikely high school potheads looking from the pot of green at the end of some stoner rainbow. That is, until you consider that Dave Reddix later became a roadie for Grateful Dead bass player, Phil Lesh, and his influence on the band and their followers meant 420 spread as a cultural phenomenon amongst Deadheads and then out into the rest of society.
Or, at least this is the origin story as spread by Steve Hager of High Times magazine in articles like “Stoner Smart or Stoner Stupid?”, all the while suppressing other origin stories. So, in actuality, the true meaning of 420 may be forever lost to the annuals of history, but it doesn’t matter. April 20 will forever be the pothead’s holiday!
Kenneth Dinkins is a professional stoner, a social consumption specialist, and the guy you wanna get high with!