Ever wondered why ‘420’ is code for weed?
Who shot JKF? What’s the exact date of Ice Cube’s “Good Day?” Why did Skittles replace lime with green apple? The world is full of captivating mysteries, to which the solutions will likely remain unknown for all time.
Why 420 has become de facto code for marijuana? Turns out the origin of the beloved numeral nomenclature is quite well documented. However it’s not, as some have often theorized, an old police code for marijuana or the number of active chemicals in pot.
Turns out the term was coined by a group of high school stoners, who called themselves “the Waldos,” in San Rafael, California during the 1960s. And there’s no complicated math behind the number. It’s simply the time the group would meet up in front of San Rafael High School’s statue of Louis Pasteur to spark up after class. The best part of this hazy, decades-old origin story just might be that the baked boys actually went chasing, Goonie’s-style, after a long-lost patch of weed hidden somewhere in the coastal mountains. Somewhat predictably, the mythical green forest was never discovered.
Before the Internet allowed easy, instant transmission of information, the term 420 had already spread around the globe. Today, its use among folks with a shared appreciation for getting high transcends even language, allowing stoners flung far and wide to communicate in the universal language of numbers. And for that, we have the Grateful Dead to thank. Because when the band moved from San Francisco to San Rafael in the early ’70s, they were quickly befriended by members of the Waldos, who let guitarist Jerry Garcia, bassist Phil Lesh and the rest of the gang in on their slang.
So whatever you might think of the smell of patchouli oil, or the seminal hippy band’s unique brand of rock-bluegrass-jazz fusion, it’s the tie-dyed traveler’s near-constant touring which lead to the term’s universal recognition. Stranger things have happened, surely. But not many…