Why Is 4/20 National Weed Day? A Brief History Of Stoner Code

After decades of being low-key hippie codespeak, 4/20, Stoner's Christmas, and unofficially, National Weed Day, has become the most widely accepted day for people to spark up the old MJ in their favorite delivery format. But why is 4/20 National Weed Day, and how did this seemingly innocuous spring day become associated with adding a little greenery to your scenery? The story is as wonderfully poetic as you might imagine.

Let us rewind back to a time before Instagram filters, when post-Vietnam America was already cloaked in earth-tones and natural textiles. According to reports, 1971 marks the first recorded usage of 420, or, more accurately, 4:20, in relation to smoking weed. In a story it published in 2009, the Huffington Post was able to trace the origins back to a school day at San Rafael High School in Marin County California, before the dueling organic grocery stores were un-ironically built across the street, when five friends who called themselves the Waldos planned to track down an abandoned patch of pot supposedly growing somewhere near the Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard station. Allegedly, 4:20 was the time the friends would meet up outside of the school to track down their partially buried treasure. They smoked, searched, and failed repeatedly but kept the tradition alive out of fun and adolescent boredom, each time, at 4:20.

Now, the jargon could've stayed contained within the small group of rebellious NorCal high school athletes if it weren't for one problem — The Grateful Dead. The infamous jam band had made Marin County its home base after San Francisco's hippie enclave Haight-Ashbury fell into socioeconomic disrepair. One of the Waldos' older brothers became friends with the Dead's bass player when their father handled his real estate affairs, and the lingo spread.


The time 4:20 became 420, which could be used in nearly any context from "420?" to "420!" and ultimately "4/20" without alerting anyone not in the know.

So this April 20, throw on some Grateful Dead vinyls as a nod to their pivotal role in stoner culture. Because, really, we have them to thank.

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