The Origin of 420

medical marijuanaIt’s April 20, otherwise known as 4/20, which has become something of a high holy holiday for smokers of pot and their advocates (yea, pot smokers!).  I got curious about the origin of the term “420” as regards marijuana and found this delightful account on Wikipedia (where else?), with a half dozen citations to attest to its veracity. I love the fact that the term’s point of origin is a Marin County high school  of the 1970s – you know, before the yuppies, hot tubs and cocaine of the 80s. 

The earliest use of the term began among a group of teenagers in San Rafael, California, in 1971,[2][3] calling themselves the Waldos,[4] because “their chosen hang-out spot was a wall outside the school”.[5] The group first used the term in connection to a fall 1971 plan to search for an abandoned cannabis crop that they had learned about.[4][6] The Waldos designated the Louis Pasteur statue on the grounds of San Rafael High Schoolas their meeting place, and 4:20 p.m. as their meeting time.[5] The Waldos referred to this plan with the phrase “4:20 Louis”. Multiple failed attempts to find the crop eventually shortened their phrase to simply “4:20”, which ultimately evolved into a codeword that the teens used to mean pot-smoking in general.[6]

Were you a Waldo? Let me know in the comments. In the meantime, here’s some pot-themed reads from the blog to keep your mind ablaze while observing 4/20:

Bang a Gong: A Chat with Tommy Chong

Cannabis Sauvignon?

Green Springs Eternal


Daedalus Howell

Daedalus Howell is the author, most recently, of the novel "Quantum Deadline" and the writer-director of the recently released feature film "Pill Head." He is the editor of The North Bay Bohemian and The Pacific Sun.

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