The 420 Origin Story

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The world of cannabis has many unique factors to it that separate it from every other industry, medicine, or hobby in the world. The prohibition of cannabis helped fuel this unique culture and it thrives still even with legalization and medical marijuana today. We see strong signs that cannabis culture is going nowhere anytime soon. With that in mind, one of the biggest cultural norms for cannabis consumers is the infamous term 420. It can mean many different things within the cannabis community depending upon the context it is used within.

With that said, today we will dive into the famous term, 420 and discuss what exactly it means. Further, we will look at some of the traditions that have arisen from the term and then dive into the mysterious 420 origin story. While there are a few theories as to how this term came to be, no one knows with certainty and that seems to add to the longevity of the term surviving as the prohibition of cannabis comes to an end. Finally, we will discuss the impact the term has had on the world with legalization and the introduction of medical marijuana taking hold across the globe. With that said, let’s dive right in!

What does 420 mean?

Most long-term cannabis consumers will have a quick answer for this question but seriously, what does 420 mean? It’s a subtle reference to the cannabis community, one which has long been underground due to the prohibition for cannabis for so long. This led to many phrases becoming commonplace such as, “Are you 420 friendly?” which in plain English means, “Do you consume cannabis” or “Do you mind if I consume cannabis?” without saying anything someone who did not consume cannabis would understand. If you asked someone this question and they responded with, “What’s that?” then you would have a ready signal that this person probably is not a cannabis consumer and may not appreciate you breaking the law (back in the day) pulling out your pipe and stash.

420 Celebration, source

The term has also morphed into a celebrated holiday where thousands of stoners can gather together to celebrate the cannabis plant. Since 420 is the codeword, the national day to light up is officially April 20th and brings about a host of different events, special occasions, and with the legalization of adult-use and medical cannabis. It also brings many award shows and other fun ceremonies specific to the cannabis industry. Photographed above, the capital of Colorado, Denver puts on one of the biggest celebrations of 4/20 culture in the country. There have been some that even suggest you can see the cloud of smoke produced from space, though this may be a high-thought after so much celebrating, eh? With more context covered, let us dive into the theories about the 420 origin story.

420 Origin Stories

There are a variety of legends on how the term 420 came to be associated with cannabis. With that said, we found a few of our favorites and the most popular 420 origin stories to share today. That said, let’s dive right in!

Number of Chemicals in the Cannabis plant

An interesting theory, which surely spawned during the prohibition of the cannabis plant, is that cannabis has 420 chemicals within it. While there are hundreds of compounds in the plant with cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds naturally occurring. While this is a fairly good guess to being a rumor back to the days of cannabis prohibition, it certainly is not true. Nonetheless, there is a chance this false reality which came about through an era of reefer madness, it still may have been started the association of 420 to the cannabis plant. With that said hopefully as prohibition continues to be repealed, we can repeal this myth as well and make sure people understand that cannabis does not have 420 different chemicals in it.

A Code for Cops to Alert of Cannabis Violations

An interesting idea which may have some validity to it, perhaps the 420 origin story began as a code used for police officers when they discovered cannabis during prohibition. With there being so many different local, county, and federal police agencies in the United States working against cannabis prohibition this particular 420 origin story seems to have some roots in legitimacy. Certainly, you recall a movie or TV show where a police officer radios in a criminal violation, something along the lines of, “10-68” which means over and out on most transceiver networks.

Southern California Time to Blaze

The High Times magazine has claimed to have found the origin of the 420 association with cannabis. The story started in the late ’70s in San Rafael, California. The main characters in the story, known as The Waldo friends, supposedly heard a cop radio signal 420 as the code word for cannabis violations. This then led the gang of friends to start referring to their daily smoke seshes as 420 to be more discreet while discussing their toking plans. We like this theory particularly because it draws a more direct connection from the highly believable police radio idea to a bunch of cannabis consumers with a reason to use the coded language.

Impacts of the Term 420

Highway signs with the 420 number of them have been regularly stolen. This has happened on such a regular basis the state of Colorado changed their sign to 419.99 but this also was a hot item for thieves. With that said, there is no current sign for mile marker 420 on Colorado, it simply goes from 419 to 421 a couple of miles later.

Ironically, the country code 420 is for the Czech Republic which reports high amounts of cannabis consumption within the nation. This certainly must be a coincidence since the country code system is established completely separately from the population rate of cannabis consumption. Nonetheless, it’s another fun, yet unlikely theory about the origins of 420 within the cannabis community.

Generally speaking though, cannabis communities around the world seem to embrace the 420 themes and celebrate the holiday with great joy, generosity, and of course lots of cannabis consumption. This has led to huge events such as the one highlighted above. It also helps bring people together and hopefully give cannabis consumers around the world at least one special day a year to be grateful and enjoy their medical marijuana.

The use of the term 420 has become commonplace among cannabis consumers. Many cannabis enthusiasts will snicker when the clock hits 4:20. With all the excitement around the number, there have even been huge celebrations which take place each and every year on 4/20. We hope you enjoyed learning more about this fun topic and can share with other new cannabis consumers who you may interact with down the road. All and all, there certainly can be a lot to unpack with the 420 origin story. The theories of how this term came to be certainly are fun and we would love to hear if you have any other theories in the comments below!

With that said, thank you for stopping by The Peak Dispensary Blog. We with The Peak Dispensary are always happy to answer any questions you may have, so feel free to stop by the store and ask away. Until next time friends, stay well!

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