The Real Story Behind 420 - An Up-N-Smoke History
Night is beginning to fall. The last full-strength beams of sunshine have just been blocked by the horizon, and the world takes on a surreal orangey-pink glow.
Two figures are silhouetted in the dusk. Finding a park bench away from anyone within earshot, the two characters nonchalantly take seats at each end of the seat.
One nods, acknowledging the presence of the other.
But these are no agents of the intelligence community.
“420?” says one.
“420.” confirms the other.
Within a matter of minutes, their shared laughter fills the air. Strangers no more, the vibe is one of camaraderie.
The codeword has fulfilled its purpose yet again.
As reported by The Huffington Post, the official story of 420 goes something like this…
It’s 1971, Northern California. Marin County to be exact.
A counterculture clique referred to as The Waldos because of their hangout spot, congregated by a particular wall outside San Rafael High School.
Having received intel that a Coast Guard service member stationed nearby could no longer maintain his outdoor, ahem, 420 crop located somewhere in the forests of Point Reyes, the friends knew what must be done.
Discreetly communicating the starting point for their treasure hunt, The Waldos passed along the veiled time and place, “4:20...Louis.” Louis, being short for Louis Pasteur, indicated the meeting location, a statue located nearby.
After multiple attempts to complete their mission in the woods, the crop was never located.
Even so, what they did discover was the phenomenally versatile utility of the 420 codeword.
Becoming a part of their everyday vocabulary, keeping their intent hidden from parents, teachers, and the like, 420 was solidified.
Interactions with counterculture legends The Grateful Dead and the Deadheads laid the groundwork for 420 as nationwide lingo. And internationally, when High Times magazine got hold of it, 420 went viral before “viral” went viral.
Now used as a noun, a verb, and an adjective, few terms can match the acrobatic flexibility of 420.
Its variants are used in brand names and web domains, dating profiles and roommate-wanted ads, events and festivals, the list could go on for days. Anytime insinuation is preferred over outright articulation, 420 is crystal clear yet sufficiently ambiguous at the same time.
The references to 420 in popular culture are innumerable, the most official of which is California Senate Bill 420, which solidified the CA medical marijuana program.
According to VICE, there are no less than 420 songs dedicated to the revered herb.
Urban Dictionary houses 31 pages of definitions for the term 420.
And while April 20th meetups abound the world around, the Mile High 420 Festival claims to be the largest, with approximately 50,000 attendees.
Not too shabby for a group of 5 friends from NorCal.
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