Where the heck did 420 come from? This infamous not-so-secret code for smoking weed has a hazy history with dozens of origin stories. People love to ponder where the number came from and some interesting ideas have sprung up. The true origin of the number is known and can be traced back to the 1970’s, but some of the 420 origin conspiracy theories are just too much fun to not talk about, so we’ve made a list of our favorite stories.
420 commemorates the death of Bob Marley.
Nope. He died on 5/11/81. It doesn’t commemorate his birthday (2/6/45) either. Sorry folks no Bob Marley connections here.
The Grateful Dead coined the phrase.
No, they didn’t come up with it themselves, but they were a contributing factor in spreading the trend. (Keep reading to see how.)
4/20 is Hitler’s birthday.
True. But it has literally no connection to the origin of 420, merely a rather unpleasant coincidence.
420 refers to the number of chemical compounds in cannabis.
While this would be a great origin, it’s simply incorrect. There are 315 chemicals in cannabis.
420 is the number of the bill in Congress to legalize weed.
This one is semi-factual. There is a California Senate Bill 420 that created guidelines for regulating how many plants and how much marijuana a medical patient can have, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the origin of 420. Someone in congress chose the number 420 as a nod to the community.
420 is the police radio code for marijuana.
Exciting, but false. No police codes here.
4:20 is teatime in Holland.
No connections to Holland or tea.
Bob Dylan has an infamous refrain “Everybody must get stoned” in the hit song “Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35”. 12 multiplied by 35 equals 420.
Is this a coincidence or did Bob Dylan know what’s hip-hop-happening? Either way this song was not the origin of the number.
4/20 is the date marijuana was legalized in Amsterdam.
Another totally fictional date.
April 20this the best day of the year to plant marijuana.
There isn’t any one single day that’s best for planting any plant. Nice idea though.
The real origin of 420 comes from a group of 5 California highschoolers in the 1970’s. They would meet up after their various sporting activities to smoke at 4:20 pm every day. They came into possession of a ‘secret treasure map’ that supposedly lead them to a marijuana crop planted in Point Reyes (any stoner’s idea of treasure). They never ended up finding the plant but the phrase 420 stuck with them. They started used it to reference marijuana in public without people picking up on what they’re talking about. The trend was then swept up by mainstream culture because the kids happen to have an uncle that worked with The Grateful Dead, and passed the term along to the band. Once The Grateful Dead stared using the phrase and spreading it with their fans, the staying power of 420 was set in stone.