- Olivia Castro
420: A Cannabis Holiday
420 is a coterie holiday that many all over the nation celebrate! But there is still a lot of mystery behind 420 and where it really came from. What is 420? Where did the term originate? How and why do people celebrate it? I will provide you with all the answers you need. At Tennessee Marijuana Card, we not only provide patients with access to medical marijuana cards but we are a main source of all things cannabis in Tennessee!
Today, we will discuss how 420 started and debunk some of the myths surrounding 420. This will give you a good understanding of why 420 is celebrated all over the world! All of these topics will give you some tools in your arsenal which will help you have an awesome 420 once marijuana is legalized in the state of Tennessee!
Where Did 420 Come From?
There has been a lot of mystery surrounding 420’s origin story. There have been plenty of myths and rumors. Some say 420 is the number of chemical compounds in cannabis, some that it is a celebration of Bob Marley’s birthday and others suggest it comes from a 4:20 Holland teatime. There also have been some conspiracy theories out there relating 420 to the death dates of Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix. While we all love Joplin, Cobain and Hendrix’s music, especially on a day like 420, these are myths spread by those who are not aware of 420’s true origins.
It all started back in 1971 in a town outside of San Francisco at San Rafael High School. There was a group of five friends who nicknamed themselves “the Waldos” as they liked to hang out near a wall outside of their high school. There was a U.S. Coast Guard stationed near Point Reyes Lighthouse who had abandoned a patch of marijuana that he had secretly cultivated in the forest. He was afraid of getting caught by his commanding officer so the patch was left unattended. The Coastguard drew a map for his brother-in-law to find it who then passed it along to his friends, the Waldos.
The Waldos were involved in high school sports so they had practice after school. After practice, they would make a plan to meet at the school’s Louis Pasteur statue at, you guessed right, 4:20. They would meet, smoke some marijuana and then head to the forest with the goal to find this treasure trove of marijuana that they could claim for themselves.
The search went on and when the Waldos would pass each other in the hallways they would remind each other the search was still on by shouting “4:20 Louie” which later turned into just “4:20.” Even though the marijuana patch was never found, the Waldos bonded over marijuana use and the hunt! They ended up continuing to use the term 420 to refer to smoking marijuana together and then, eventually, anything marijuana related.
During this time, the band the Grateful Dead had just relocated to San Rafael, where the Waldos lived. The older brother of one of the Waldos was a band manager and was very close with Phil Lesh, the bassist in the Grateful Dead. This gave the Waldos an in to parties, shows, and rehearsals; one of the Waldos even became a roadie for their summer tour. This is how the term 420 started to seep its way into popular culture as it spread through the Grateful Dead community and the nation as a whole!
You can learn more about this story in greater detail from the Waldos themselves! In 2017, the popular podcast Criminal researched the origins of 420. You can listen to it here.
Debunking 420 Myths
We can talk about all the 420 myths that fly around since most people don’t know that the term came from a group of marijuana hunting teenage boys in NorCal. Below are some of the most common myths and the reasons behind why they are debunked:
Myth 1: There are 420 chemical compounds in marijuana.
This is definitely false. Marijuana is one of the most complex plants on the planet so there are a lot of components to marijuana. There have been over 500 chemical compounds identified, 70 different cannabinoids and over 120 terpene variants that have been found in marijuana. This number adds to well over 420.
Myth 2: 420 is the police dispatch code for marijuana.
This is probably the most common 420 myth and is also false. Fun fact though, Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh stated that in San Rafael the police code for marijuana was 420l. Although this wasn’t the case, as 420 is not a police code for anything, this was the first time the Grateful Dead was linked to the origin story of 420!
Myth 3: Marijuana users in Holland have their tea at 4:20 pm.
This also is not true. People have tea in Holland at different times and there is certainly not a nationwide consensus between every cannabis consumer that they have to drink their tea at exactly the same time, every day.
Myth 4: The anniversary of Bob Marley’s death is on 4/20.
This is so obviously false and could be solved with a question google search. Bob Marley actually died on May 11, 1981 of skin cancer in Miami. Rumors have also said it was related to his birthday but his birthday is in February so that is also a no-go too. He has no relation to the term 420 except that he was an avid lover of marijuana and promoted its use.
Myth 5: 4/20 is related to Kurt Cobain’s death.
This again is also not true. Kurt Cobain, lead singer of the band Nirvana, sadly was found after committing suicide on April 8, 1994. Unfortunately, it took a few days for him to be found in his Seattle home so it was said after the autopsy that he actually died on April 5. This date is close to 4/20 but definitely is not close enough as he was found on the 8th, not the 20th. This can also be debunked because 420 was a term already in existence in 1994 so it did not originate from anything related to Kurt Cobain.
How Do People Celebrate 420?
420 has gone hand in hand with cannabis culture for decades now. The 420 holiday is widely embraced by people around the country! There are many different ways that you can celebrate 420.
Everyone has a different cannabis journey. Some use marijuana as a way to chill and unwind, some to connect with friends and others to help sooth debilitating medical conditions. The marijuana plant is so diverse and everyone has a different relationship with it.
Whatever way you connect to cannabis is the right way for you to celebrate 420! Some want to celebrate 420 by attending legalization rallies and signing petitions to free incarcerated people for marijuana crimes. Others get a group of friends together to go camping and bond over a fire. Some want to just Netflix and chill with their bae in the comfort of their home. There is no wrong way to 420!
Right now, marijuana is not legal in that state of Tennessee. But there is hope that you can be celebrating 420 safely and legally soon! There are 16 legislative bills that are in either the House or the Senate right now relating to marijuana legalization and decriminalization. Soon Tennessee will be making some final decisions on where it plans for its future to go!
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