The police code for smoking pot, the number of active constituents within the plant, or oddly, Hitler’s birthday, considering pot and hate don’t mix well; If you see someone with relaxed red eyes devouring a large bag of Dorito’s today, you could ask them where the term 420 came from. You may hear any of the rumors I listed above and there are many more.

So, on this festive day of cannabis celebration, let’s set the record with the 420 origin story.

420 – Meet The Waldo’s…

Picture California in the 1970’s; a group of pot smoking high school students happen to stumble on a treasure map leading to a lush cannabis crop, abandoned by a member of the coast guard.

Once a week, the group would meet by the wall of their high school, near the Louis Pasteur Statue to get stoned before embarking on an epic journey through the Point Reyes Forest to find the lost green treasure.

Three Waldos—(from left) Mark Gravitch, Dave Reddix and Steve Capper with their original 420 flag and friend Patty Young. (Credit: Carly Schwartz)

Three Waldos—(from left) Mark Gravitch, Dave Reddix and Steve Capper with their original 420 flag and friend Patty Young. (Credit: Carly Schwartz)

Week after week, the location of the hidden crop remained a mystery. Valiant and unperturbed, the group would saturate themselves in THC and forge on in their quest. Known as “the Waldo’s” on account of their meeting place, the group soon realized that they needed a secret code before anyone such as their parents caught on… (or worse, another band of stoners learning of their intentions and finding the secret plants first!)

Louis Pasteur statue at San Rafael High School in California. (Credit: Sapphic)

Louis Pasteur statue at San Rafael High School in California. (Credit: Sapphic)

With the Waldo’s always meeting at 4:20pm, the code word seemed natural and fitting…

420 meets the Grateful Dead

Picture California in the 1970’s… Backstage at a Grateful Dead Concert, the Waldo’s grown up, smoking joints and still referring to reefer by 420.

When your dad manages the bands real estate and one of your friend’s older brothers just happens to be close friends with the bass player, it is not hard to spend time in the VIP section.

It didn’t take long before the term 420 was being used regularly by the Grateful Dead and their fans.

Reporter Steve Bloom went to a show and stumbled upon a flyer all about 420 and the reference. Writing for High Times, he immediately latched on to it and the rest is up in smoke.