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The Origins of 420

 April 20, 2022  Written by David Melnick
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Where does “420” come from?

Many theories have swirled around over the years, but the consensus describes that the term 420 was first used by a group of five high school students in Marin County, California back in 1971. This group became known as the “Waldos” because they would meet at a particular wall.

The Waldos gathered at 4:20pm, after their extracurricular activities, to use cannabis and then go on adventures — including searching in the forest for a cannabis plant that was rumored to have been abandoned by a U.S. Coast Guard member. While they never did find that elusive cannabis plant, 420 became the group’s code word for referencing cannabis around teachers and parents without raising suspicion.

You may be wondering, how could "420" have possibly caught on to the rest of the world?

Turns out, the Waldos had connections with the legendary rock band Grateful Dead, and they naturally used the term 420 when passing a joint or referencing marijuana. In 1990, a flyer was circulated at Grateful Dead shows that invited people to “meet at 4:20 on 4/20 for 420-ing” in Marin County, California — the place where the term had first been used by the Waldos.

One of those flyers landed in the hands of a High Times Magazine reporter, Steve Bloom. In 1991, High Times published the flyer and then began using the term 420 in their marketing and building their annual events around the date. In 1998, High Times credited the “invention” of 420 to the Waldos — but the unknown writers of the historical 420 flyer have been credited with making 4/20 the official, unofficial cannabis holiday.

Today, we’re grateful that legalization efforts have made Missouri and many other places a safe place for patients to access and use cannabis without a need for underground code words. Now, we enjoy the opportunity and privilege of using the phrase 420 to celebrate the cannabis plant and everything it offers us as a community.

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