I've heard a lot of different theories over the years about how exactly the number 420 became synonymous with smoking weed. The real origin story is better than all of them.

Now that 4/20 is basically a holiday for pot-lovers, it seems weird that its origins aren't widely known. I mean, maybe they are these days and I'm just too disconnected from the culture to have realized it. However, I do have a lot of friends who are still all about their smoke, and I had never heard the definitive origins of 420 being a thing until today. So I thought it might be worth sharing.

Back when I used to partake, I usually heard stuff like "420 comes from the police radio code for marijuana-related activity" or "convictions for possession used to carry a sentence of 4-20 years." Neither of those sounded legit, nor did ones about connections to Hitler's birthday (yikes), but another common explanation about 4:20p being the time people met up after school to smoke made a little more sense. It turns out that is how the number became part of the stoner vernacular, but that's only part of the story.

According to Rolling Stone, a group of Californians attending San Rafael High School known as "The Waldos" were the ones who originated the term. They came across a map in 1971 that allegedly led to a field of abandoned marijuana plants. So every day after school they smoke down while hunting for the field in a 1966 Impala. And I bet you can't guess what time they met every day...

4:20. It was 4:20pm, you guys.

These pot-smoking Goonies never found their magical treasure, but after a few weeks they did find a new coded way of saying "time to smoke." Before the internet, cool slang terms like this rarely spread beyond your circle of friends, but these dudes had major connections to the Grateful Dead. If you're were looking to popularize marijuana slang in the 70s and 80s -- a Grateful Dead concert was ground zero. Once the Deadheads adopted it, well, the rest is history, my friends.

Happy 4/20!

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

More From Banana 101.5