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The origin of 420 is shrouded in a mysterious haze and has been passed down through generations. Today it’s one of the most popular terms associated with weed and an unofficial holiday celebrated globally. In the Western world 420 has been “memeified” so much that has turned into a global sensation. 

How did it become so popular? Where does 420 come from? Some theories are pretty interesting. Others are downright bizarre. You could probably trace a line of causation between how weird a 420 origin story is and how stoned the creator was at the time.But there are some answers. Here we’ll discuss some of the most enduring theories about the origins of 420 and its significance in cannabis culture today. Sit back, load up the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack and take a big ol’ rip. Let’s get into 420 origin history.

How Did 420 Start? 

How did 420 start if we don’t know exactly what its origins are? Let’s start with the basic theories that people have come up with and work our way down to really suspicious 420 origin stories. 

1. The Usual Suspects: The Waldos

The year is 1971. History is about to begin.

It seems almost too good to be true that a group of teens from San Rafael, CA, who called themselves ‘the Waldos’ may hold the key to the origins of 420. I mean… how much do you want to be in that mid-budget teen movie? What group of teens has the nerve to give themselves such a cool name and then go about accidentally creating a cultural phenomenon? Why 420? According to legend, this group of teens would typically hang out by a wall (hence ‘Waldos’) and at twenty minutes past four would meet at the school’s Louis Pasteur statue to smoke pot. ‘420 Louis’ was thus the original code. 

How this story behind 420 started to spead: As to how it spread to the wider world the story behind 420 gets even cooler. The older brother of one of these tokers was friends with Phil Lesh, bassist of The Grateful Dead. The Waldos were introduced to the group and The Grateful Dead picked up the lingo.The ‘evidence’ behind this is that in 1990 a Grateful Dead gig flyer told the story of the origin of 420. This was picked up by Steve Bloom an editor at the weed magazine High Times, who published his own story about the flier in May 1991. Weirdly, the information he got from the flyer claimed that the name behind 420 was about a California police code for busting potheads, not from the Waldo’s meet-up spot. 

Sometime later in 1997 members of the original Waldos came across this story and got in touch with the magazine to correct the tale. Since then this has remained the most popular and credible-seeming theory of why it is called 420.  So, a band of 70’s teen Deadheads may be behind the true history of 420 but, we can’t know for sure. However, there a few other theories that are too weird to leave out.

2. California Law

We’ve already covered the misconception over the California police radio code. It’s not the only California conspiracy about the story behind 420 though.

Another theory points us to Bill 420 of the California Senate which does concern cannabis. However, this 2003 bill was introduced as part of the state’s legalization of medical marijuana and took its name from the above 420 origin story.

3. A Tale of Two Bobs

One fun theory about the history of 420 concerns Bob Dylan. More specifically, his legendary song Rainy Day Women #12 & 35. As the song’s chorus line states:

“But I would not feel so all alone – Everybody must get stoned!”

Okay, so Bob Dylan wrote a song that mentioned weed. What of it? Well, as one galaxy brain stoner realized, if you multiply 12 and 35 together, you get… Dude. Dude. Is rainy day woman #12 called Mary? Is rainy day woman 35 called Jane? Eh. Sadly not, as far as we know. This theory is hugely enjoyable and the song was released some 5 years before the Waldo’s theory begins. However, there’s no evidence that this song inspired the history of 420. You won’t be surprised to know that the other Bob is Bob Marley. While certainly an iconic feature in cannabis culture, the theory states that Bob Marley died on April 20th and the story behind 420 is that it was named in his honor. Sadly, this one is also not true as Bob Marley died on May 11th.

3. The Significace of 420

The answer to how did 420 start is just as hazy as you’d expect it to be. But, we know for sure that the significance of 420 has permeated our culture and become one of the most recognizable slang terms alive today. There was utter dismay when the long-awaited ‘whole month of 420’ was ruined for everyone. Today 420 is a huge sales day for cannabis shops nationwide. It’s when cannabis lovers can get awesome deals on their favorite products and support local vendors. But, it’s really about people coming together to celebrate their love for weed, just like the Waldos. 

We may never know why 420 was so named for sure. The Waldo’s theory holds up the most but, it’s impossible to ignore or just laugh at these other unique theories. 

Even if we can’t know the history of 420 concretely, we can all thank whatever circumstances created our favorite holiday here at Fiori Delivery!