Whether or not you’re a fan of cannabis, you may still be familiar with April 20 – a sort of national holiday for cannabis culture. Your favorite dispensaries will be running great deals and operating in a general celebration mode, but what about the wild stories behind 4/20? The tales still circulating about the origins of this day are entertaining, to say the least, but what’s true and what’s made up entirely? We’re debunking the craziest myths of 4/20 so you know the real deal.
Debunking those Wild 4/20 Myths
Let’s get started with a few of our faves.
4/20 is a police dispatch code
Quick lesson – police use ten-codes, so this is already a non-starter. As the story goes, Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh mistakenly believed 420 was a San Raphael police code for “marijuana smoking in progress.” He was wrong, but the misconception lives on.
4/20 is the California penal code for cannabis
Wrong again. Section 420 of the California Penal Code couldn’t have less to do with cannabis. Instead, it references the unlawful hindrance or obstruction of a person from entering public land.
Cannabis has 420 chemical compounds
Clever, but no. At this time, there are more than 500 identifiable compounds in cannabis. That includes over 120 terpenes and more than 70 cannabinoids.
4/20 is Adolf Hitler’s birthday
This is, weirdly and unfortunately, accurate. Still, it’s only a coincidence. Hitler’s and his birthday has no association to cannabis beyond landing on the same day.
4/20 is the date of the Columbine school shootings
This is also true, but 4/20 was an established term before this tragic event. Plus, the date appears to be significant to the perpetrators not because of cannabis, but because of Hitler.
4/20 is the anniversary of Bob Marley’s death
Bob Marley was born in February 1945 and died May 11, 1981, so this is also wrong. He did love cannabis, but he has no connection to the date. And neither do Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix.
The Real Story of 4/20
The most credible story about the origins of 4/20 from the editor of High Times. Turn out, the term was a reference not to the date, but to the time. In 1971, a handful of students at San Rafael High School used the code 420 to arrange daily smoking sessions at 4:20 every day. The group would congregate near a certain wall, spawning the nickname the “Waldos” to puff, puff, pass.
The term spread to the world at large likely thanks to the Grateful Dead. One of the original Waldos was a roadie for the band, so it’s likely that he shared the term with the band and it caught on to the larger cannabis culture from there. In December 1990, Deadheads in Oakland passed out flyers about smoking on April 20 at 4:20 pm, and one of those flyers found its way into High Times magazine. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, we know the holiday is celebrated with deals and discounts at any dispensary up to snuff, as well as festivals, concerts and other celebrations (you know, in a pre-COVID world). And now you know some of the most persistent myths and the real story of 4/20, so commit the details to memory in the event of any surprise 4/20 trivia. And get ready to celebrate – 4/20 will be here before we know it!