420, 4:20, or 4/20 (pronounced four-twenty) refers to consumption of cannabis and, by extension, a way to identify oneself with cannabis subculture. Observances based on the number include the time (4:20 p.m.) as well as the date (April 20).
The earliest use of the term began among a group of teenagers in San Rafael, California in 1971.
Calling themselves the Waldos, because “their chosen hang-out spot was a wall outside the school,” the group first used the term in connection to a fall 1971 plan to search for an abandoned cannabis crop that they had learned about.
The Waldos designated the Louis Pasteur statue on the grounds of San Rafael High School as their meeting place, and 4:20 p.m. as their meeting time. The Waldos referred to this plan with the phrase “4:20 Louis”. Multiple failed attempts to find the crop eventually shortened their phrase to simply “4:20”, which ultimately evolved into a codeword the teens used to mean pot-smoking in general.
High Times editor Steven Hager was the first to track down the Waldos and publish their account of the origins of the term. Hager was the first person to organize 420 ceremonies outside of Marin County, starting at the Cannabis Cup in 1990.
Hager later wrote “Are You Stoner Smart or Stoner Stupid?” (October 1998) in which he called for 4:20 p.m. to be the socially accepted hour of the day to consume cannabis. “I believe 420 is a ritualization of cannabis use that holds deep meaning for our subculture,” wrote Hager. “It also points us in a direction for the responsible use of cannabis.”
Last updated: March 20, 2015 at 16:56 pm
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