What is 420?

Posted 7 years ago by Ian Shutts

Even if you’re not at all a part of the “marijuana community”, you’ve probably heard the term “420” thrown around many times. Maybe you have no idea what this coded lingo means, or maybe you’ve just heard a bunch of rumors. Is it the number of active compounds inside of marijuana? Nope. FYI, there are even more than 420 active chemicals inside the marijuana plant. I guess 420 would just be childsplay.

Is it the time for drinking tea in California? Also wrong! Well, it might be that for some. But the term 420 has a long cultural history in the USA – meaning much more than just tea time. This wonderful term has carried on to be a token of cannabis culture. It has found its way across the world, has filtered its way into modern everyday language and even into some of our favorite stoner flicks. In this article, you’ll learn all about how 420 became one of the most iconic terms in the stoner vocabulary.

The story behind 420
420 meaning

You might’ve heard snippets of the real story on the grapevine. But finally – here is the full story behind 420. Unsurprisingly, it all started in California. The founding fathers of 420 were a group of high school students who attended San Rafael High School in California. In an effort to avoid being caught, they used 420 to codify their unlawful behavior. At 4:20 every day, they would meet in front of the Louis Pasteur statue on campus – where of course, they would smoke herb together. Their after class marijuana rampage started in 1971.

I suppose they had absolutely no idea that their after-school meet-up lingo would go worldwide. It took some time to spread, being popularized by the Grateful Dead (who they were friends with), and finally, in the early 90s, the High Times wrote about the infamous term. This group of no longer high school kids called themselves the Waldos for security reasons. As much as they enjoyed being famous, weed was still illegal in the USA in the 90s.

What’s funny is that for the Waldos, this term was a way of disguising their love for marijuana. These days, everybody is familiar with the term and using it openly means you’re definitely not hiding anything about your cannabis enthusiasm. The cat has been officially out of the bag for a long time. In case you didn’t notice, the clock in the pawn shop scene in the film, Pulp Fiction, is almost always set to 4:20. The term is now a part of anything that we consider to be cannabis culture.

420: National Stoner Day
In the days of legal weed, 420 has come to be a stoner’s favorite day in the year. Not only are dispensaries giving out freebies and discounts, but basically everybody is publicly blazing as a testament to 420. The 20th April has become a National Stoner Day, giving everybody the birthright to smoke twice as much as they usually would. The aim of this day is basically to get as high as possible.

On this day, cannabis conventions are held in the USA and around the world. It is one of the most economically lucrative days for dispensaries and probably for illegal dealers, too. But luckily for stoners, 420 doesn’t pass just once a year. When you think about it, it happens every day – twice. Any real stoner is like a 420 alarm clock, always pointing out when it’s that time of the day!

Another code word for weed
420 cannabis fun and games

There are many marijuana enthusiasts who even use 420 as another term for weed. It’s common to hear people say that they are going to score some 420. It doesn’t necessarily just refer to that appropriate time for smoking a joint. It is another way to hide the fact that you’re talking about ganja. Whereas it used to just mean “smoking in progress”, it now can mean anything and everything related to ganja.

Don’t be surprised to find friends with 420 stickers on their cars or 420 posters in their bedrooms. If the alarm clock is set to 420, then you know that you’re dealing with a stoner. Marijuana enthusiasts are always looking for ways to codify weed, but 420 is not really a code word any longer. Just about everybody knows that it has something to do with the herb!