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The Origins of 420: Fact or Fiction

HAPPY 420!

Ah the infamous, mysterious, and legendary number 420. Whether it’s used in reference to a time, date, or code it’s synonymous with marijuana and coveted by cannabis enthusiasts everywhere. 

There are countless rumors and myths surrounding this cultural phenomenon. We took a deep dive into some of these most popular stories to uncover the true origins of 420. 

Myth #1 The police dispatch code for marijuana is ‘420’

FALSE: We’ve all heard this one before, funny thing is there’s not even the smallest ounce of truth to it. It’s said to have originated in California but nowhere is the code for “marijuana consumption in progress” 420. However, this myth did get it’s start at a Grateful Dead concert, but more on that later. 

Myth #2 Bob Marley died on 04/20

FALSE: This has also been said about many other weed loving celebrities such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison. We aren’t sure how this got started considering not a single one of these people died on this date. Interestingly enough Bob Marley’s son, Stephen, was born on 04/20/1972. 

Myth #3 The Grateful Dead invented 420

FALSE: The Grateful Dead are a part of many 420 myths. Sadly, they did not invent the term. They also never only stayed in hotel rooms numbered 420 and their address was never 420 Ashbury Street in San Francisco. Although it is pretty kismet that they lived at 710 Ashbury Street with July 7th being “International Oil and Concentrates Day” aka “Dab Day”. 

Thought they never coined the term themselves; The Grateful Dead did play a small role in popularizing it. Keep reading to find out how!

Myth #4 There are exactly 420 chemicals in cannabis

FALSE: While this would be a killer coincidence it’s unfortunately not true. Cannabis is a complex plant with anywhere from 300-400 different chemical entities depending on strain. 113 of these are cannabinoids that researchers have identified so far. 

Myth #5 4:20 is tea time in Amsterdam

FALSE: There is no specified time to drink tea of any sort in Amsterdam, Holland, or anywhere else in the Netherlands. That doesn’t mean to say that you can’t start your own tea time ritual by brewing up your own cannabis beverage at 4:20pm. Sounds delicious to us! 

Back to the Beginning 

So how exactly did this all come about? How was this date chosen and become so widely accepted as a national holiday in cannabis culture? 

The most credible origin story traces back to 1971 in Marin County, California and a group of friends from San Rafael High School. This group of friends—Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich— would meet by a wall and aptly named themselves the “Waldos”. 

The Waldos would routinely meet at a campus statue to smoke weed at 4:20pm after all extracurricular school activities were done. They began using 420 amongst each other as code for marijuana. 

After this, Reddix’s brother hooked him up with Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh and Reddix became his roadie. Sometime later in 1990 former reporter for High Times Magazine, Steve Bloom, was walking through the parking lot at a Grateful Dead concert when a group of Deadheads handed him a flyer. 

The flyer advertised 4/20 as the date they wanted everyone around the world to get together and smoke at 4:20 pm. In 1991 High Times Magazine published the flyer. This flyer birthed the idea of the stoner holiday we all know so well. Also included in this flyer was the little myth about police code ‘420’ being used for “marijuana consumption in progress”. In 1998 the same magazine recognized the “Waldos” for fathering the term 420 and even adopted the 4:20pm practice themselves. 


So, there you have it, the hazy myths and the blazin’ truth about this legendary day. Go ahead and awe your buddies with your infinite weed wisdom or start a myth of your own. Maybe you’ll found your own cannabis holiday 20 years from now. 

The information provided is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult with a qualified healthcare professional for personalized advice based on your medical condition.

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