420 does not commemorate the death of beloved Bob Marley. Many weed enthusiasts believe that the origin of 420 came from Marley’s death. However, Bob didn’t die on 4/20, he died on May, 11th 1981. 4/20 is also not Bob Marley’s birthday (another speculation). Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison also did not die on 420, another myth debunked.
Many speculate that the day of 420 has a connection with Greatful Dead. While this is partly true because the Deadheads spread wake and bake message of 420 around the country. It is thought to be believed that Greatful Dead used to stay in room 420 of every hotel room they stayed at, but this has been proven untrue.
420 is not the police code for “marijuana smoking in progress”. 420 is however a real code for homicide in Las Vegas and in the TV series CSI. Interesting! Some people also think that 420 is the California penal code relating to marijuana, wrong! Section 420 of the California Penal Code refers to obstructing entry on public land.
Some green thumb stoners think that 420 is the best time to plant marijuana, this is hardly true. The best times vary from region to region, and with modern grow houses, you could successfully begin planting in the middle of winter, even if it’s 20 degrees outside.
So if none of these are the true reasons behind 420, then WHAT is? Well, the birth of 420 dates back to the early 70’s when it became the hour for cannabis consumption among High School students in San Rafael California. Even in the mellow Marin County, the stronghold for the Greatful Dead, no grants were made to allow sparking up during school hours. A group of stoners that called themselves the “Waldos” would pass each other in the halls and send knowing glances and mutter ‘420 Lewis!”. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle in 2000, one of the students said that it started off as a joke between a group of friends and then it quickly became so much more and started to mean more things like “do you have any?” or “do I look stoned?”. The students used the code word 420 for their pot activities and the time the activities would take place. The group would meet on school grounds in pre-planned locations at 4:20 p.m and get high, it is also rumored that they would wander the grounds in search of a magical marijuana forest. The time of 4:20 was perfect for the high schoolers as they were out of school and most of the kids’ parents were still at work. It was one hour of unsupervised freedom. 420 was a code that the kids could use in front of their parents to signal smoking time and it would go unsuspected to any adults. The term took flight and spread worldwide, possibly all thanks to the Deadhead followers. What began as a simple code to get high between some teenagers, is a now a term that is used across the globe and it is imprinted on T-Shirts, stickers, mugs, and just about everything else. Who would have thought?!
The story of the Greatful Dead followers (also known as Deadheads) emphasizing the 420 term begins with a flyer handed out at a Greatful Dead show Christmas week in Oakland California, 1990. Steven Bloom was walking through the parking lot of the show venue – and if you ever went to a Dead show, then you know the hippies gathered before every show- when a Deadhead handed him a yellow flier. The message read: “We are going to meet at 4:20 on 4/20 for 420-ing in Marin County at the Bolinas Ridge sunset spot on Mt. Tamalpais,” Bloom was a then reporter for High Times magazine and had never heard of “420-ing” before. The flier was complete with a 420 backstory about the high schoolers from San Rafael, California in the late 70’s.
(A Deadhead gathering before a concert)
The 420 term was wide-spread and greatly used by the end of the 1970’s. The Deadheads spread it like a virus from their San Rafael grounds. Within a decade, pot heads were using it across the country and even around the world. It quickly became a “hip” term to describe marijuana use and “getting high”. As early as 1990 the stoner bible High Times started using the 420 term and later bought out the website 420.com and on the active site you can find weed related videos, news, tips, activism, and conspiracy links (such as “Will the LAPD have armed drones hunting suspects?”).
So there we have it, for all who may have had other speculations or heard other stories. 420 once started as a code between some high schooler friends in California, and now in 2017 it is celebrated worldwide by marijuana enthusiasts, when the time on the clock reads 4:20 and once a year on April 20th.