Craziest 420 Origin Stories


April 20th is the peak of cannabis culture. It’s a holiday designed to celebrate marijuana in all its glories and forms, for both newbies and seasoned veterans. What began as a time to shine has turned into a huge holiday. It’s a time when the subculture flares up when they appreciate the impact of buds on their lives. The day is also a source of mystery as its origins were – until recently – unknown, surrounded by crazy myths and theories.

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In reality, 4/20 started in San Rafael, California in the early 1970s. Some fans of the Grateful Dead – they called themselves Waldos, who turned away from the Dead Head person – met every day at 4:20 p.m. to smoke weed after school. Although they originally planned to meet at 3 p.m., they had to wait for some friends to drop out of sports training or clubs after school. They would all meet at the statue of Louis Pasteur to meet and smoke. Their tradition spread like wildfire when they suggested to other cannabis enthusiasts that it was the best time to smoke, especially at concerts and tours of the Grateful Dead. To date, the concept of April 20th has grown into a national, even global, celebration of the flower at its best.

While this story breaks down other 420 origin stories, the others are still as quirky, smart, and entertaining as ever – perfect for appreciating and laughing at. From ridiculous to not that far-fetched, the theories are as varied as they are interesting, with some elements of truth scattered throughout. Here are some of the craziest 4/20 stories to date.

In remembrance

Some people think that some of the big names in weed smoking died on April 20th and the holiday was made in their honor, including Jim Morrison, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin. These pioneers weren’t afraid to be brave with their Bud: they lit up during concerts, wrote controversial lyrics, and became strong voices within the counterculture who refused to be silenced. However, these deaths did not occur on the same day or on April 20. Morrison died on July 3rd, Marley on May 11th, Hendrix on September 18th, and Joplin on October 4th. While these artists have been open and liberal about their marijuana use, they have nothing to do with the April 20th celebration.

Chemical serendipity

There is a popular theory that cannabis is made up of 420 chemical compounds, which is wrong. Actually, it’s pretty close: after research by Rudolf BrenneisenCannabis contains around 483 chemicals, including more than 60 cannabinoids. In a perfect world, the numbers would match and science would support marijuana use on any given day. Instead, science supports the idea that cannabis is cool and worth studying.

Police code

A popular rumor has it that the police are using “420” as a numeric code for their radio to report illegal marijuana use, especially in populated areas like New York City or Las Angles. And while some regions may use this code in relation to ownership, it’s not specific to marijuana – it’s usually an umbrella code for each type of drug. Sometimes it’s even the code for murder. Hopefully this misconception will decrease as more states start legalizing cannabis. Also, it’s important to note that California’s 420 Criminal Code is not related to weeds. Instead, reference is made to the restriction of public access to land.

Optimal growth

With different climates and growing seasons depending entirely on climate, it’s impossible that 4/20 is the best time to plant weeds. Even in the United States, there are differences in growing seasons and methods. For example, the weather in Colorado has a good chance of changing from sunny to snowy in late April, while California deals with heat after February. For marijuana it would be handy to have this link at 4/20, but the plants have their own growth plan.

Bob Dylan’s song

Perhaps the smartest genesis is based on the musical styles of Bob Dylan. Like many other pioneers of the civil rights era, he wrote music to draw attention to important social issues and to insert the unity of humanity as a common theme. His song “Rainy Day Woman # 12 and 35” has a significant line: it says, “Everyone must be stoned.” Fans and 4/20 theorists have concluded that he started the vacation because the answer to 12 times 35 is 420. It’s creative, crazy, and wrong too.

Senate bill

In 2003, California Senate Draft 420 was drafted to provide guidelines for the use of medical marijuana, including the number of plants and the amount of marijuana a medical consumer can both own and consume. Although the name has a very specific connotation, it came much later in the cannabis culture timeline as an origin. It was a stepping stone in the naming process, however – 4/20 gets tossed around in everything from Craigslist roommate ads to newspaper articles to guidelines. It has outgrown the counterculture and crept into the mainstream, bringing awareness and knowledge to the public in many different ways.

Albert Hofmann

The man known for the synthesis of LSD, the Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann, is a hero for many anti-prohibitionists. A rumor started life – probably in honor of his 102 year life – that he took his first intentional LSD trip at 4:20 p.m. on April 20, 1943. Hofmann has nothing to do with vacation. Weeds remain separate from the psychedelic heritage.

Hotel room

A very popular 4/20 story is that the Grateful Dead – the epitome of the stoner band and the pot cultureists – always stayed in hotels in room 420 during their tour. That rumor was debunked by a former member, but the band deserves credit as they inspired the Waldos and were a major owner on April 20 and beyond. Dead Heads have had a huge impact on what 4/20 looks like today and how popular and comprehensive it has become.

Tea time

Smokers don’t all light up in Holland at exactly 4:20 p.m., as this story suggests. Nor was it the time when marijuana was first legalized in Amsterdam. It is worth noting, however, that Holland has been laid back with its drug laws in the past, making it a worldwide destination for people seeking both relief and adventure. With recreational and adult recreational marijuana laws passed in the United States, the price of airline tickets to a legal high has come down incredibly for Americans.

Tragedy reference

April 20th was a tough day in history. It was the day Hitler was born, as well as the date of the tragic shooting at Columbine School in Colorado. This origin story likely credits the creation of 4/20 as a way to lift spirits on such a sobering day. However, both events were not relevant to the timeline of the weed celebration, so the day was separated from those terrible moments.

The genesis of April 20th as an international cannabis achievement is short and simple, far removed from some of the fantasies that weed fans and resistors alike have come up with. Many of these ideas are original and creative and come from a place of inspiration. Whatever the beginning, 4/20 has an opportunity to bring people together and inspire remarkable festivals and wills for years to come.


Beth Edmonds