The Truth Behind Today’s 420 Pot Holiday

The Truth Behind Today’s 420 Pot Holiday

What do these numbers have to do with weed? And what’s a Waldo?

At 4:20 p.m. today – April 20th – in time zones around the world, pot-smokers will be lighting up to celebrate an unofficial holiday whose origins are debated by stoners with time on their hands.

The following report by ABC-TV asks and answers the questions: Does 420 refer to a police code for illegal marijuana use? Is it a veiled allusion to the number of chemicals in cannabis? Or maybe it’s teatime in Amsterdam, the global spiritual home of marijuana smokers. Don’t forget that April 20 is Hitler’s birthday, but that’s certainly not a reason to hold a peace and love rally.

And how do you spell this holiday anyway—420, 4-20, or 4/20?

Grammarians can debate the punctuation issue, but according to Dan Skye, executive editor of High Times magazine and an expert in all things weed, the true origins of 420 have been researched and are laid out in a Wikipedia entry largely composed by High Times savants. “People tried to create their own myth about this,” he says, but adds: “The start of 420 is fairly clear at this point—the kids back at San Rafael High School.”

He’s referring to some teenagers who back in 1971 reportedly invented the term, referring to the time of day when they would meet to smoke under the school’s statue of Louis Pasteur. Their password for the gathering was “420 Louis.” The kids were known as the Waldos, maybe because there was a wall near the statue. The term went viral the way things went viral in the 1970s, gradually over years.

The Origins of 420

“Some of their parents were associated with the Grateful Dead,” says Skye, and the term became common among Deadheads. Around 1990, High Times published the term and later it bought the web domain 420.com.

The mystique of 420 grew when the clocks in Quentin Tarantino’s film “Pulp Fiction” were set at 4:20, a practice that Sophia Coppola paid homage to in her later movie “Lost in Translation.”

“It’s basically just a celebration of cannabis. It’s mushroomed into our unofficial national holiday,” says Skye.

At any other time of day a smoker wants to light up, the popular toast is: ‘It’s 4.20 somewhere.’