What Is 4/20? 6 Things To Know About National Weed Day

Friends and stoners, gather round, because April 20, aka National Weed Day, is finally upon us. It's the one day a year dedicated to showing your marijuana appreciation, regardless of whether or not you use the stuff yourself. But, even the most enthusiastic cannabis lover might be wondering why this day came about in the first place — what is 4/20, and how did it become an unofficial holiday? The origins of this holiday are, you might say, a bit hazy, but there are a few things you should know.

For one thing, there is almost as much misinformation floating around out there about the significance of April 20 as there are actual facts. Contrary to popular belief, the holiday's origins have nothing to do with the rumored 420 chemical compounds said to be found in cannabis, or a secret police code that, legend has it, was once used to refer to marijuana busts. These stories have become common lore and are often perpetuated in cannabis culture and discussions of what 420 stands for, but for the most part, they're just a bunch of smoke — there's not much to back them up.

So then, how did 420 — and subsequently, the date 4/20 — become synonymous with marijuana use? According to Internetslang.com, 420 quite simply translates to "weed, pot, or time to get high, smoke marijuana." But beyond that blunt definition, here are six other things to know about 4/20, and why it's become associated with weed.

1. 420 started in the 1970s

While there are many stories circulating about how 420 became a part of the stoner lexicon, most accounts trace the term back to one specific starting point — San Rafael High School in Marin County, Calif., circa 1971. According to one particularly compelling retelling by The Huffington Post, 420 was first passed around by a group of five friends who called themselves the "Waldos" (since, you know, they hung around outside by a wall after school). Apparently, the crew caught wind of a rumor that a secret patch of marijuana was growing near the Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard station, so they decided to meet up at 4:20 p.m. after school to go look for it. The code they used for their rendezvous? 420, obviously.

2. 420 became a secret code for anything having to do with marijuana

The Waldos weren't exactly successful in their first attempt to find the elusive marijuana harvest, but they didn't stop trying — or using their secret code word. Eventually, "420" became linked with all matters related to marijuana among the group.

3. Grateful Dead helped spread its popularity

So how did 420 go from being a code word used among friends to becoming a national movement? You can look to the Grateful Dead. The band was located in Marin County at the time, having just left San Francisco, when one of the band's members connected with a brother of one of the Waldos, and picked up on the phrase. It was only a matter of time before 420 began circulating among Grateful Dead fans also in the area, who spread it around with them as they toured the country.

4. 420 was never a code used by police

A popular crowd theory surrounding the origins of 420 is that it was a radio code used by police to reference marijuana. But, that's widely regarded as a myth.

5. 420 also has nothing to do with how many chemicals are in marijuana

Another popular theory is that cannabis contains 420 chemical compounds. However, as The High Times reports, there are actually 315 active compounds.

6. 420 has morphed into its own unofficial holiday

That's right, there's a whole day that's dedicated to it. April 20, the 20th day of the fourth month, or 4/20, just seems like a natural time for marijuana enthusiasts to celebrate cannabis, and celebrate they do. Especially as weed becomes legalized in more states across the country, many see this as a day to raise awareness for marijuana's benefits, both recreational and otherwise. Of course, you don't have to play your own game of puff-puff pass to get in on the 420 action — there are plenty of other ways to celebrate 4/20 even if you don't light up. One way to start? By spouting off all the new facts you just learned. After all, if nothing else, this is a day for sharing.

Images: Getty; Giphy