As we prepare to celebrate the unofficial cannabis holiday of 420, we explore the origin story of this term. In this article, Gage Cannabis Co. delves into the roots of this cultural phenomenon and dispels some myths about 420 along the way.
Four-Twenty: Fables and Folklore
What exactly does 420 signify? Speculation about this question has spawned numerous myths. Here are just a few examples of fables and folklore surrounding the origin story of 420.
One rumor claims that 420 traces its roots to a Bob Dylan song titled ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’. The theory goes that this legendary American musician and songwriter cryptically coined the phrase four-twenty because 12 times 35 equals 420. Furthering the theory, Dylan sings the line in the song: “everybody must get stoned”. This theory makes a bit of sense, but the artist has never even spoken about cannabis as the meaning behind his song.
Another myth is that 420 is the criminal code used by police when discussing suspects illicitly distributing cannabis in the state of California. We can safely debunk this, as 420 is the criminal code for when a perpetrator obstructs the entry of private land. What’s more, California Senate Bill 420 proposed protecting physicians from prosecution for recommending cannabis to their patients.
We could spend all day discussing urban legends of where 420 may have come from. But let’s stick to the facts, and get to the fun part. Here are the actual origins of 420, as widely accepted among the cannabis community.
The Actual Origins of 420: Steve Hager
Thanks to young Californians in the 1970s as well as Deadheads, 420 found its way into mainstream American culture and our vernacular. The iconic counterculture journalist, Steve Hager deserves credit for documenting much of the 420 origin story. Hager was the first writer to interview the Waldos, was one of the first reporters and writers to publicly cover cannabis, and is an important modern-day legalization activist.
Hager served as the editor of the High Times in the 1980s and 1990s, founded the Cannabis Cup, and has become a leader in the marijuana legalization movement here in the United States. According to Hager, the phrase 420 was first coined by students in the 1970s, at San Rafael High School in Marin County, California. These students called themselves the Waldos.
What Does 420 Mean? The Waldos
As the cannabis legend goes, the first group of people to use the term 420 were known as the Waldos. The Waldos would meet at 4:20 PM, a perfect time to do so, as they were out of school and their parents were still at work. When making these plans to meet up, the Waldos would just say “420,” allowing them to discreetly refer, while within earshot of unsuspecting teachers and parents, to smoking cannabis.
Today, we are grateful for the right of all adults 21 and over to consume cannabis legally in the state of Massachusetts. Gage Cannabis Company always supports legally purchasing and consuming cannabis, and never condones underage use.
The History of 420: Deadheads and Cannabis Cups
In parking lots of Grateful Dead concerts, all kinds of interesting things happen, including introducing new terms like 420 into the vernacular of the counterculture. Around the time of the Waldos, the term 420 came into popular usage at hippie festivals where jam bands like the Grateful Dead and similar bands performed.
Fast forward to the mid-1990s, when the annual Cannabis Cups were held on April 20th. These yearly competitions started as a way to judge some of the most popular strains of the day, with a new flower reigning supreme each year. For around 25 years, Cannabis Cups have helped to further solidify the term 420. The first Cannabis Cup featured a modest number of vendors and event attendees. Now, the event has become one of the largest cannabis gatherings in the world.
Toward A More 420-Friendly Future
As we move toward an even more 420-friendly future, we are working to finally bring an end to federal cannabis prohibition and pass legislation like the SAFE Banking Act. We can do our part by supporting pro-cannabis legislation such as NORML and Mass Cann, in and around Ayer, Massachusetts.
The cannabis holiday of April 20th comes only a month after the unofficial booze-drinking holiday of St. Patrick’s Day. After all of the progress that has been made with cannabis legalization, drinking on St. Patrick’s Day is still more socially accepted than consuming cannabis on 4/20. This remains the case even though countless studies show cannabis is safer than alcohol and tobacco.
We’d like to continue to do our part to change this narrative –and we encourage our amazing customers to do the same! We can start by always consuming responsibly, whether it’s on or around 4/20, or any time of the year. Always give this incredible plant the respect it deserves.
Pass the Gage, Man, and Celebrate!
If you’re as excited as we are to celebrate 4:20, be sure to stock up on everything you need right here at Gage Cannabis Co. Our friendly budtenders and staff are here to answer your questions. While you are here, be sure to check out our Aroma Bar, where one of our terp-tenders will help educate you about and help you better experience the wonderful world of terpenes and cannabinoids.
Leading up to 4:20, there are a lot of exciting things happening in and around Ayer, Massachusetts — and even right here in our parking lot! We have a lot of fun events planned beginning on Thursday, April 14th. On the holiday itself, we are hosting a 4:20 Parking Lot Party from 4-8 PM where we’ll have a VW Photo Booth, Gage Tie-Dye Station, Yard Games, and delicious complimentary food from Vesta Wood-Fired Pizza.
For all of the details of the 4:20 celebrations at and around Gage Cannabis in Ayer, Mass, check out our daily events itinerary for the entire week of 4:20 and keep an eye on our Instagram page. We look forward to seeing you, and celebrating the cannabis plant with you! Happy 4:20!