Clearing the air on the origins of 420, the unofficial national marijuana holiday

The origins of the so-called pot holiday "420" are -- fittingly -- fuzzy. Some people will say that the holiday's name traces back to a police code. Others, meanwhile, believe that something happened on April 20 many years ago.

The near-universal consensus, however, is that "420" is a reference to the time of day. Weed lore dictates that in the early 1970s, a group of teens attending San Rafael High School, about 19 miles north of San Francisco, would as a code word of sorts to indicate a smoke session after school. The group of teens, who reportedly dubbed themselves "the Waldos," would whisper "420 Louis" to one another in the halls as a way to spread word that they'd be meeting at 4:20 p.m. near the school's statue of Louis Pasteur.

(MORE: More than 9,000 [1]marijuana[2] convictions dismissed in latest case of cities taking action)

"Back then, we spent every day of our lives worrying about getting busted.

Going to buy was a really secret thing," Waldo member Steve Capper told The San Francisco Chronicle.

(STOCK/Getty Images) A woman smokes marijuana in this undated stock photo.

While it started as something of an inside joke, "420" has stuck. It is still used to this day as a code among people who are marijuana friendly.

(MORE: Canada legalizes recreational marijuana after Senate passes 'historic' legislation)[3]

Dan Skye, a longtime editor at High Times magazine, told ABC News in 2011[4] that while the number's relationship to marijuana began in San Rafael, it's gone well past that.

(MORE: 420 Pot Holiday: Myths and Truths Behind the Celebration)[5]

"It's basically just a celebration of cannabis. It's mushroomed into our unofficial national holiday," Skye said at the time.

Now that marijuana[6] has been legalized[7] in a number of states and decriminalized in many others, the secretive -- and sometimes paranoid -- allure of a huddled smoke may be fading.

According to a 2018 Gallup poll[8], 66% of Americans now support marijuana legalization, an increase from 60% in 2016[9] and 31% in 2000.


  1. ^ (MORE: More than 9,000 (
  2. ^ marijuana (
  3. ^ (MORE: Canada legalizes recreational marijuana after Senate passes 'historic' legislation) (
  4. ^ told ABC News in 2011 (
  5. ^ (MORE: 420 Pot Holiday: Myths and Truths Behind the Celebration) (
  6. ^ Now that marijuana (
  7. ^ legalized (
  8. ^ 2018 Gallup poll (
  9. ^ 60% in 2016 (

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