What is the Origin of the word 420?
There’s a good chance you’ve heard marijuana referred to 420 at some point in your life. This popular reference to the herb has plenty of rumored origins, but which is actually true? Let’s take a look at the actual origins of 420 and gain a better understanding of why April 20th is devoted to National Pot Smoking Day, and why 4:20 PM is a common time to unwind after a long day.
420 Origin Myth # 1 – A Tribute to the Birth or Death of __________.
Let’s begin by looking at the rumors about the origin of 420 being associated with. The first is that 4/20 was the date of birth or death of Bob Marley (2/6/1945 – 5/11/1981), Jim Morrison (12/8/1943 – 7/3/1971), Jimi Hendrix (11/27/1942 – 9/18/1970), or Janis Joplin (1/19/1943 – 10/4/1970). As you can see from all the listed dates, none of them falls on 4/20. So this myth about the origins of 420 couldn’t be further from the truth.
Interestingly enough is there are some famous people who were born on 4/20 that you would think would have the date attributed to them. Stephen Marley and Edie Sedgwick are a couple of examples. They aren’t the only ones born this day though, in fact there is someone with a darker history that plays into the next of the rumors.
Origin of 420 Myth # 2 – A Reference to Tragedy
The next rumor is that the 420 is a reference to Hitler, Columbine, or other buzzkill situation that people smoke to forget. While it is true Hitler was born on April 20, 1889 and the Columbine School Massacre took place on 4/20/99, there is no truth to the 420 origin being attributed to any of these events. The first use of 420 was back in the 1970s a time when neither would’ve been relevant to those smoking.
420 Origin Myth # 3 – A Count of Chemicals
420 is sometimes attributed to the number of chemical compounds that are found in cannabis. The belief is that there are approximately 420 of them. While it is true there are quite a lot chemical compounds in marijuana, there isn’t 420 of them. Instead, there are 483 compounds that are found in the plant. The ones attributed with the medicinal benefits of this plant include tetrahydrocannabinol, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, cannabidiol, cannabinol and cannabichromene.
What is perhaps interesting about the 483 chemicals is that designer variations of the plant explore the increasing and decreasing of the different compounds to achieve different results. Growers for the medicinal trade have mastered the art of changing the DNA of these plants to help boost the effects it has on nausea and pain, while decreasing the high that the plant gives. That allows it to treat the cause, with there being less of a concern to those who are using it.
420 Origin Myth # 4 – U.S. Congress Bills
The next myth that 420 has its origins from the U.S. Congress Bill designed to finally legalize weed. While California senate bill 420 is part of the medical marijuana program act, it isn’t actually where the 420 began. This use of 420 only dates back to 2003. The origins of that bill number selection is a nod from a clerk or aide at the time who filed the piece to the tradition that was already in place.
Several of the senate bills that have been attributed to the 420 have had absolutely nothing to do with marijuana. This includes dealing with the developmentally disabled, and even pupil discipline. Those are definitely a far cry from weed.
420 Origin Myth # 5 – Police 10 Code
Police code is the next rumored origin for 420. The belief is that a 420 call is for the use of marijuana. While many places now do use it for possession, it is not limited to marijuana. Instead, this covers all drug paraphernalia in general. In some places, the radio code also stands for a homicide. This means that while there is a link in police 10 code, it’s not where the origin of this term comes from. It also is not due to the reference of the California penal code section 420. In fact, that section of the penal code is a reference to the obstruction of entry to public land.
Despite this not being true, the police force continue to push this myth because of the association that remains. However, by the time you’re done reading this piece, you’ll know the actual origins and you can use that information to educate others on this topic.
420 Origin Myth # 6 – It’s a Cultural Thing
Next up is the rumor that the origins of 420 are a part of Holland and Amsterdam culture. The truth is that the date cannabis became legal in Amsterdam was not 4/20 of any year. It also has nothing to do with “teatime” in Holland when people smoke their marijuana at exactly 4:20. There is no validity to either of these rumors.
So what makes Amsterdam or even Holland a go to for the rumor? Amsterdam is notorious for their relaxed policy for drugs. Many people from across the globe travel there in order to have an experience they cannot legally have in other parts of the world. However, the tourist travel has caused the country to put out new laws and even outlaw items like magic mushrooms as the problems associated with some items have become more than the local law enforcement want to deal with.
origin of Myth # 7 – It’s The Time of the Year
The reference to 420 also has nothing to do the ideal time of year to plant marijuana. The truth is the ideal planting time varies from one region to the next. So a universal selection of the date 420 would not make sense. In some parts of the world April 20 is still cold, while other sections of the world find this date to be scorching hot where they live.
While in the United States you’re still dealing with the cold and the snow, you can head to places like Cuba and Egypt where it is considerably warmer. While that means that you’re not going to end up with the perfect day to plant marijuana, you do have a better understanding of where things stand.
420 Origin Myth # 8 – Bob Dylan and Everyone Getting High
Now, you’ve read quite a bit and we’ve touched on what is it not. Well, let’s work closer to the origins of 420. It does have its roots in music culture. But that doesn’t mean that all the rumors associated with it indeed true. The first rumor is that “Rainy Day Woman # 12 and 35” by the legendary Bob Dylan is the reason we have 420 as the term, since it a song where he repeatedly tells everyone to get stoned. In fact, if you multiply 12 by 35 you even get 420, so all the signs point to this being a legitimate origin. But this isn’t where it stemmed from and where it does come from might seem a little anti climatic after knowing this origin myth.
Oddly, the song was released in April 1966. But the origins are still associated with a time in the 1970s that is perhaps a little stranger. But before you write it off as being a band you never heard, you’re be Grateful to hear that there is one legend that’s not dead wrong.
420 Origin – The Waldos and the Grateful Dead
What is true is that the Grateful Dead are linked to the 420 legend. No, it wasn’t that the band always stayed in room 420 on their tour, this wasn’t the case. Instead, the origin of 420 dates back to the early 1970s in San Rafael. Here in Marin County, a group of “Waldos” would meet together each day at 4:20 PM to consume marijuana after school. The group would meet near a statue of Louis Pasteur, or other areas and make sure they would light up at the same time each day.
This group began to spread a rumor of an incredible marijuana patch in the area and the weed would be smoked at the same time each day. They continued to pass this rumor at the tour dates of the Dead and this began to further spread the legend. That is the true origin of 420. While it might seem like a simple under story, it is one that continue to play an important role and is something each of us should know.
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