MUNDANE MYSTERIES: What’s The Meaning Behind “4/20”?

Weed is coming to Maryland on July 1st, following last year’s vote to legalize cannabis when 67.2% of our fellow citizens decided to make left-handed cigarettes legal.  But even if you’re not a marijuana enthusiast, you’re still probably aware that April 20, or 4/20, is the unofficial holiday for those who partake. It’s a day when pot smokers around the world come together to, well, smoke pot. But why the code 420?

Well, there are a lot of theories as to why that particular number was chosen, but most of them are wrong. You may have heard that 420 is police code for possession, or maybe it’s the penal code for marijuana use. But neither of those are true. There was a California Senate Bill 420 that referred to the use of medical marijuana, but that bill was named for the code, not the other way around.

As far as anyone can tell, the phrase started with a group of high school students back in 1971, when a bunch of kids at San Rafael High School in California got in the habit of meeting at 4:20pm to smoke weed after school. When they’d see each other in the hallways during the day, their shorthand was “420 Louis,” meaning, “Let’s meet at the Louis Pasteur statue at 4:20 to smoke.”

Somehow, the phrase caught on, and when the Grateful Dead eventually picked it up, “420” spread throughout the greater cannabis community like wildfire in a grow house. What began as a silly code shared between classes is now a worldwide event for smokers & legalization activists.  Which isn’t really a bad accomplishment for a bunch of high school stoners, when you think of it!

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send me an email: [email protected].

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