History Behind 420 

There are some terms that are synonymous with smoking weed, the most widely-recognized term being “420”. However, while many will use this term for their weed-smoking activities, very few know where the term stems from or what it actually refers to. If you constantly use 420 but want to learn more about what it truly means, we are going to break it down for you right here (and eliminate some of the myths in the process)! 

What Is 420?

420 is often used as a nickname for smoking weed or considered the sacred time for smoking weed in some circles. Whether that it the specific time during the day or a chosen date (April 20th), many weed smokers will choose these times to begin smoking or to celebrate the practice. Regardless of what you may use 420 for, it does stem from a similar story, one that has had a much larger impact than originally intended! 

Where Does the Origin of 420 Come From?

Many have attempted to claim the title as the source of the term but the most likely story actually comes from a high school in San Rafael, California. A group of five teenagers that would enjoy smoking weed happened to hear about a local weed plant that was left unattended and would be easy to get weed from. The group would smoke weed and go out looking for the crop after school, meeting at 4:20 as they were all athletes and needed to make sure that they were out of practice first. The term “420” served as a reminder as well as a secret code so that they could continue their plan without anyone knowing. There are some variations of this story and how it spread (the main one being that one of the jocks worked for the Grateful Dead, who then made the term popular) but these main details and the people involved are the same. 

Myths and Legends of 420 

Shrouded in mystery, it is only natural that people would come up with reasons behind the 420 over the years that would help to explain the meaning and popularity of the term. Here are some of the most common legends surrounding 420 that you have probably heard yourself. 

California Penal Code

One popular theory that continues to make its rounds is that 420 refers to a California Penal Code that specifically targets the criminal use and distribution of marijuana. While this sounds like a believable suggestion, the illusion can easily be broken by searching for the law, which instead refers to the obstruction of entry on public land. This leads many to believe the alternative theory below. 

Police Radio Code

The second most possible legend that has been developed over time is that 420 is, rather than a penal code, a police radio code that officers would use to signal weed-related activity. Much like the previous myth, however, an easy search for this term would show you that almost no California police force has a 420 code, with the exception of the San Francisco police, for which a code 420 refers to a juvenile disturbance. There are also some other popular myths and legends such as 420 in a Bob Dylan song and in other artists’ songs of the time. 


Engaging in 420 can be fun but the story behind it and the many myths and legends that come with the term are just as exciting. If you have wanted to know where 420 was birthed and why it has become such an icon in cannabis culture, the brief explanation above will fill you in on the history behind 420. 

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