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The History of 420: How It Became "The Day For Smokin"

Everyone knows that 420 is code for weed. There are festivities on April 20 to celebrate this special connection, and those who can't wait for a once-a-year celebration, well, it's 4:20 twice a day! 

There are many rumors swirling around about the origins of the 420 code, but most of them are simply not true.

While some inventive mathematicians(probably armed with a blunt and a calculator) figured out that 420 was equal to 12 times 35 and that both of those numbers appear in the titles of Bob Dylan songs, one of which includes the line "everybody must get stoned," the number has nothing to do with Dylan. It is also not police code for marijuana, and while Hitler was born on April 20, that's merely a coincidence. It's not the origin of the code. 

The true origin of the code does still have some controversy, but hard-hitting journalists have sifted through the evidence, spoken to some Deadheads, separated fact from fiction, and brought us the truth. To understand where it all began, you have to go back, way back, the to autumn of 1971.


Meet the Waldos

The Waldos was the nickname for a group of five teenage friends from northern California. They all attended San Rafael high school, and they had found a hand-drawn map that purported to show a secret stash of marijuana growing in some nearby fields. Much too old to believe in finding pirate's treasure but just the right age to go off on the hunt for free weed, the five friends met up at 4:20 pm and started their pursuit. They turned up empty-handed, but that didn't discourage them. The hunt was most of the fun, they decided.

They started using 420 as code for marijuana, and it spread through their peer group, which happened to include (when you got a few steps removed) some members of the Grateful Dead. As we all know, Deadheads are notoriously some of the most dedicated and tight-knit fans in all of music history, so it's no wonder that the code spread quickly among this crowd.  

Jump to the Mainstream

In 1990, Steve Bloom, the editor of High Times magazine, read about 420 on a Grateful Dead flyer, and he decided to write about what he had learned. With this new audience, the term spread even further. People started using it to plan their smoke sessions, and the code's popularity only grew.

Controversy Arises

By 2000, the term had been in use for three decades. Kids who weren't even born when the term was originated were now meeting up at 4:20 to smoke a joint. The legend had grown beyond the Waldos' wildest dreams. They may have never found that secret field of pot, but they had found something even better: a legacy that would carry on for generations to come. 

Perhaps that's why they fought so hard to defend the truth when claims from a rival group popped up in 2012 with a very similar story to tell. As reported by 420 Magazinea man named Brad Bann claimed that he and a group of friends called themselves "The Bebes." He, too, attended San Rafael high school in the 1970s. In fact, he claimed that the Bebes and the Waldos were good friends, but that it was the Bebes (not the Waldos) who first began using the term 420. 

Not to have their legacy tarnished, the Waldos came to their own defense. They produced notes from the 1970s with the use of the term. The Bebes have produced no such proof. 

It's no wonder that someone would want to claim the glory of this widespread terminology. After all, the code is now so popular that the 420-mile marker on I-70 in Colorado has been changed to mile 419.99 in order to cut down on repeated thefts.

If you've got your own 420 celebrating to do, be sure to stock up on BluntPower air fresheners. Three sprays of one of the dozens of possible scents will keep your space smelling fresh and clean . . . no matter how much celebrating you do! 

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