I honestly, until this very day, always thought 420 was the police code for marijuana. Turns out there is a multitude of stories, legends and myths associated with the origin of 420. Time and Vox have both done articles about the origin and seem to conclude that the most likely credible story goes back to the 1970s. in 1971, a group of high schoolers from Marin County, California, would meet at 4:20 to smoke weed. This group, who called themselves the “Waldos”, because they met by a wall, would use 420 as a code for weed.

Later, one of the members of the Waldos, Dave Reddix, would become a roadie with The Grateful Dead. The band is said to have helped popularize the term. A group of “Deadheads” in 1990 handed out pamphlets asking people to smoke weed on April 20th at 4:20 pm. One of the pamphlets ended up in the hands of Steve Bloom. Steve Bloom, a former reporter for “High Times” would publish the pamphlet in 1991. And the term would continue to be used in the magazine from then on. Soon after the code became synonymous with weed worldwide.

While that is just one story of the possible origin there are plenty of others that range from plausible to questionable to outright bizarre. Here are some of the fun ones I’ve found. If you have any others you’ve heard, please message us on social media.

  • 420 is a police code for Marijuana

    Police Code 420
    This is one of those legends that goes way back for me. I recall this being the origin in my head since I was in my teens. Ranging from the code for smoking to the arrest code for smokers of weed. A 420 in progress…..

  • Bob Dylan is responsible

    Of course, he is! Bob Dylan’s song “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 because if you multiply 12 x 35 you get 420. Makes sense…in some mathematical end of the world kind of way. 


    Bob Dylan 1966

    American folk pop singer Bob Dylan at a press conference in London. (Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images)

  • It's what's on the inside that counts!

    420 ingredients

    One story is that there are 420 active ingredients in marijuana. I can only imagine the number of comments to discredit this one.

  • Cthulhu gets high?

    Cthulhu 420
    You mention H.P. Lovecraft and I get giddy! In the 1939 short story “In the Walls of Eryx” by H.P. Lovecraft and Kenneth Sterling. The story describes “curious mirage-plants”, similar to marijuana, that got the narrator high at 4:20 per his watch. If there is any accuracy to this origin it would put it as the earliest known origin of 420.

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