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The Real Story Behind 420 Day

Posted: April 8, 2019 in 4/20, April 20th, Bloom Medicinals 420 Specials, Bloom Medicinals Event, The Origins of 420 Day

April 20th is soon approaching. Everyone in the cannabis world knows that 420 is the most revered day of the year commemorating the wonders of the cannabis plant. Hundreds of festivals move into high (no pun intended) gear at 4:20pm. There are many theories about how 4/20 came to be the day of the year where cannabis is exalted and celebrated around the world. As far as I can tell, I have related the real story….unless anyone knows otherwise!

Some of the debunked theories include:

  • 420 was the California penal code for cannabis offenses. Nope. The actual penal code for drug offenses is 11350.
  • There are 420 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Not true. In actual fact, the number is more like 515.
  • A reference to Bob Dylan’s song “Rainy Day Women Nos. 12 & 35” featuring the immortal line “Everybody must get stoned.” Multiple 12 x 35 and you get 420. Seems like a stretch.
  • Another song is titled “4+20” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young is thought to be the inspiration. Nah. The lyrics have nothing to do with cannabis.
  • Albert Hofmann’s famous LSD trip took place on April 16, 1943, at 4:20pm. I don’t think so.

The real story was that the 420 code was created by a group of 5 teenage Deadhead high schoolers in San Rafael, California in 1971. They called themselves the “Waldos.” This was in reference to a wall outside their school where they used to hang out. The code word referred to their meeting at 4:20pm at the statue of French chemist Louis Pasteur which was located at their high school.

They didn’t meet to smoke, they met to begin a search for a cannabis crop in Point Reyes National Park. The 71,000 acre park, located 30 miles northwest of San Francisco, was rumored to be the location of a cannabis crop abandoned by a Coast Guard service member. The Waldos even got hold of the map pinpointing the whereabouts of the cannabis, but they never found it, even after searching the park many times.

They were smoking a lot of cannabis and just the idea of looking for the cannabis crop seemed like a great adventure in itself. The operation was originally called “4:20 Louis” which was shortened to 4:20 which turned into 4:20pm as a meet-up time to smoke. 420 took on several different meanings which were used to confound parents and teachers:

  • Do you want to get high after class?
  • Do you have any?
  • Do I look stoned?

With San Rafael as the home of Grateful Dead Productions, 420 soon became associated with the band. The Waldos had several Deadhead connections including working at Dead shows, passing out flyers with images of cannabis and 420 on them. In 1990, a High Times writer heard about the significance of 420 and it was incorporated into magazine editorials.

This theory is refuted by another group of teenagers from San Rafael calling themselves “The Bebes.” They claimed that they created the 420 code in 1970, one year earlier. They acknowledged that they were friends with the Waldos. However, they are certain that they were the first to use 420 when they looked at a clock and said “It’s 4:20, time for bong loads.”

While smoking cannabis, they recorded a so-called Abraham Lincoln quote, “Four score and 20 years ago” and it just snowballed from there as a code word…or so they said. They really have no evidence to support this claim, while the Waldos have flyers, flags and postmarked letters, all bearing “420” on them.

No matter who coined the term, it has reached worldwide awareness and celebrity, appearing in pop culture, including countless movies and TV shows and is all over social media on the day. It seems to gain more and more notoriety with every passing year.

To acknowledge this auspicious day, every cannabis related business offers “420 deals” to honor the plant that provides so many benefits to humans and to animals, alike. Bloom Medicinals is there for you…sign up to our mailing list for specials throughout the week starting 4/14-4/20… Check your inbox for great deals!

You’re invited to Join us on 4/20 – Want more information?


Source:, Myth Busting: 420 Edition, David Jenison, October, 2015, Mythbusting 420: Its One True Origin (And a Whole Lot of False Ones)

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