A Brief History of 420

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If you’re a late teen or older, chances are by now you have heard that the numbers 420 are a significant part of weed culture.

But what does 420 mean? And why do marijuana aficionados hold 4:20 p.m. and April 20th so sacred?

420: A Sacred History

In accordance with Time Magazine, 420 can be traced back to 1971, when a group of five high school students at San Rafael High School who lived in Marin County, California, started meeting after class at 4:20 p.m. to smoke the pot.

Time had reported that the number “420” doesn’t have much symbolic significance. So instead, the students: Dave Reddix, Steve Capper, Mark Gravich, Larry Schwartz, and Jeffrey Noel — decided to get together at 4:20 p.m. as was at that time. Their extracurricular activities all ended around then.

The Grateful Dead Connection 

For the group of teens, smoking weed was strictly illegal during that time, so “420” was as code for marijuana. Some years later, one group member, Reddix, got a job working for Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh.

By 1990, a Grateful Dead fan group was spreading the word of the ritual by giving out flyers to invite others to toke “420” on April 20th at 4:20 p.m.

The following year, the magazine High Times printed a copy of the flyer, which started the association between smoking weed and 420 spread across the globe and became a piece of American culture.

In the New York Times, a 2009 article verifies the history of 420 reported in Time Magazine.

A former editor of High Times, Steven Hager, told the newspaper that the importance of 420 dated back to 1971 when a group of teens in Northern California began smoking weed at 4:20 p.m. as a matter of ritual.

CDC Reports A Drastic Rise in Weed Use

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that weed is the most used drug illegal under federal law in America, with over 48 million Americans, or about 18% of the population, who used it at least once in 2019.

Support for the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use, as well as recreational use, has been ever-growing in the last few years.

A poll by Elon University showed that 54% of North Carolinians wanted the legalization of marijuana ultimately, and 73% supported the legalization of medical marijuana.

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Dean Mathers


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