If ever there were an urban legend, 420 must be one of the best there is. Most recreational marijuana partakers don't know where this not-so-secret codeword comes from but have adopted it as their collective word for all-things marijuana. You pronounce it like "four-twenty" and can use it as a noun, adjective or even verb.
What does 420 mean, anyway?
Well, no one knows for sure. But as the most likely original lore goes, a group of high school students back in the early 70s found an abandoned marijuana crop in northern California. They would meet at a statue that stood in front of their high school at 4:20pm - when all after-school activities were over and the school grounds were empty. Then they would head off to their newly-discovered MJ stash and smoke it up.
This group — Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich — called themselves the “Waldo's” - which is kinda cool, not only because Waldo is a cool neighborhood in KCMO, but also when you think "Where's Waldo?" and the thought of half a dozen high school student stones in the middle of nowhere smoking it up! Think about them getting lost in the wood and asking each other "Where's Waldo?" Maybe I'm the only one who finds this super funny!
Then apparently one of the members worked as a roadie for the Grateful Dead, went on tour with them (where there was no doubt a LOT of pot smoking!) and, as the legend goes, the Dead helped popularize the term, presumably from hearing the story of the high school stoner friends.
Is this true? Who knows, but it's a great story! Still, let's take a look at some of the other urban-legendary backstories on 420.
Bob Dylan and Rainy Day Women
Anyone who's ever listened to a classic rock station or anyone who's a connoisseur of good songwriting has undoubtedly heard the famous Bob Dylan song, "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35", but probably are more familiar with the lyrics: "Everyone must get stoned". To be honest, I thought this was the name of the song when I listened to Dylan in college!
But what the heck does this have to do with 420, you ask? Turn out 12 times 35 equals - you guessed it! - 420. This correlation is probably not the origin of 420 and (I think) it's probably a happy coincidence brought to you by the folks who play songs backwards and imagine hidden meanings and other rumors throughout music history.
Die Führer's birthday
It turns out that one of the most horrific dictators of history's birthday is on April 20. Yes, crazed destructor of western Europe in the 20th century was born on "four twenty". Of course folks like to link this date with the origins of 420 and other crazy conspiracy theories but it is absolutely not the correct back story for 420.
Marijuana users would never associate something so good with something so evil (really, think about it ...), and
In Europe being born on April 20 would be written like 204, as they write the day then the month in either numbers or even in words.
But it's great to know that something so awesome like cannabis has essentially highjacked this day! I remember living in Germany and April 20 came with somber reflection but now the world can reclaim this day for something this is truly helping with world's wellness and helping bring it together.
Different ways to use "420"
For the new medical marijuana user, here are some ways you can use 420 when talking about weed. Sometimes it's good to use this semi-codeword to speak to a fellow MMJ users and to mystify those you don't want to necessarily reveal what you are talking about.
420-friendly - this means that the person either uses marijuana or is fine with others using it. You will see this often in ads for apartments, gatherings, parties and even on online dating profiles.
"Do you want to 420?" - this means exactly what it means, "Do you want to partake in marijuana?" Since smoking and vaping are the primary intake methods when socializing with other, you wouldn't say this if you were taking edibles or drinkables.
"Do you have any 420?" - do you have any weed. Just remember that if you have a prescription for medical marijuana that it is meant only for you, so if someone asks you this, just let them know that they can likely get their own medical marijuana card. Also it's likely that recreational marijuana is coming soon to Missouri! (Who knows when, but it hopefully will happen soon!)
Nowadays, 4/20 or April 20 is known almost everywhere in the world as the day for weed! Many cities have ‘smoke outs’ and almost every state with legal weed has a 420 celebration with music, vendors and all-things 420. Unfortunately the COVID-19 crisis has kept many of these from happening, but you can still celebrate this spring "holiday" safely with a few friends (just keep to corona rules to be safe!).