• September 16, 2019

420: The 'lit' history - The Trail Blazer: Life & Arts

Facebook Twitter

420: The 'lit' history

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Friday, April 20, 2018 6:47 pm

Marijuana has always had a subculture of devotees, so much so that it has even been given a pseudo-holiday dedicated to going up in smoke.   

Seen as an “all-day marathon of tokes,” the holiday of 4/20 can trace its origins back to 1971 where a group of five high schoolers known as The Waldos coined its phrase. 

The Waldos originally used the term 420-Loui in reference to a statue of French chemist Louis Pasteur, where they would meet at 4:20 p.m. to hangout and smoke weed after athletic practice at San Rafael High School in California.

“It was joke back in the early 70’s for us and we still think it’s a joke.” Said Dave Reddix of the Waldos, in an interview with KPIX a news outlet from San Francisco in 2015.  

After a while, they shortened their code to just 420 any time they wanted to communicate about the drug in front of smoke bums, parents and school officials. 


For a while, the group had a pastime of searching for a hidden crop of plants that was supposedly planted and abandoned by a Coast Guardsman, but they were never able to stumble upon their lost treasure.  

The code became more widely used outside of the five friends after Reddix, along with the help of his older brother, became a roadie for The Grateful Dead’s bassist, Phil Lesh. 

After picking up Reddixs lingo the band made a flyer that Read “We are going to meet at 4:20 on 4/20 for 420-ing in Marin County at the Bolinas Ridge sunset spot on Mt. Tamalpais.”  

Once the word got out to “Deadheads,” which are followers of The Grateful Dead, the use of 420 spread into an internationally known phrase. 

Since its use by the Deadhead community, the three-digit number has become so symbolic amongst smokers that the 420-mile marker in Colorado along interstate 70 was changed to read 419.99 due to multiple thefts.

While some still believe that the numbers origins come from cop code to reference pot smoking in progress, multiplying numbers from Bob Dylan’s song Rainy Day Women or even Adolf Hitler’s birthday, every festive 420 practitioner has five kids from California to thank for their favorite holiday.  

More about

More about