The Foggy Fumble: Finding the True Origins of 420
Like just about anything in history, the root of the term most common among cannabis consumers has a hazy past.
People believed it was police code for a marijuana offense in progress while others were sure that is the number of active chemicals in the marijuana plant. There are several stories that have circulated over the years, but one seems to be at the root of it all. In this edition, we are going to dig deep into the cannabis archives and play our own game of Sticky Icky: Fact or Fiction.
Let’s start with the police code myth. Before we learned the truth behind the stoner holiday, many people thought 420 was police code. When researching this myth, I discovered that 420 is police code for a homicide in Las Vegas. While there is some truth to this being police code, it most certainly does not denote a marijuana offense in progress.
If it’s not code for the cops to bust up a funky flower party, then surely it must mean that there are 420 chemical compounds that make up the blissful plant we so enjoy consuming. Wrong again. There are hundreds of chemicals in the plant, but not 420. Ganja has, according to recent studies, just over 400. chemicals living in harmony inside its roots, stems and leaves.
So, what about there being a correlation between the term and The Grateful Dead? This is a bit closer to the truth, but not quite. The band did make 420 popular and their worldly travels allowed it to spread easily. Another rumor associated with the Dead was that they always stayed in room 420 in every hotel they visited while on tour. Insert incorrect answer buzzer here. That is also fiction for many reasons. The most obvious being not every hotel they visited would have had 420 rooms.
Now that we’ve debunked some 420 origin myths, let’s talk about the truth behind our favorite day of the year. And time of day.
Back in the early seventies, a group of high-school students searched high and low for the best time and place to consume cannabis on campus. The group consisted of five teenagers who spent a good chunk of their time leaning against a wall while partaking in their favorite pastime. They even began to call themselves “The Waldos” because of how much time they’d spent there.
At one point, they’d heard a rumor that a member of the Coast Guard planted weed and was unable to take care of the crop. That person also supposedly created a treasure map and anyone who found it would be led directly to a green paradise. Once a week, the members of the Waldos would get together after school so that they could conduct their search. Because they were all athletes, they met after activities which happened to be at, you guessed it, 4:20 in the afternoon.
Of the five, only two have ever come forward to tell their story. They spoke about how they’d remind each other in the halls of their meeting and would simply say, “4:20-Louis.” Louis indicated the location, which was a statue of Louis Pasteur just outside their high school. Eventually, they dropped Louis, thus the birth of the term 420.
Sadly, they never found the sacred map to cannabis utopia. They did form a lifelong friendship and love of cannabis, which is just as good. Well, almost.
There you have it. While this wasn’t the most fascinating origin story, it was intriguing, and you learned something new. We can all agree that anything to do with our beloved bud is amazing though, right?