The origin of 420 is surrounded by much speculation. Today, 420 is a common term in Cannabis culture, but the true origin of 420 dates back to the early 1970’s. When the clock strikes 4:20, it’s time to light up. Every April 20th (4/20), tokers gather worldwide to get high and support the legalization of the plant. You head in to your favorite Colorado recreational dispensary and shop for a new 420 bong, 420 accessories, 420 cleaner and 420 just about everywhere (it’s even the name of our Colorado marijuana dispensaries!) So where did the term 420 come from? What is the meaning of 420 in popular culture today? We’ll answer these questions while exploring the myths, meaning and origin of 420 in Cannabis culture.

the meaning of 420

What’s the meaning of 420?

Many people know that 420 is a huge part of Cannabis culture, but the origin of 420 terminology is often considered a mystery. While the phrase pops up all over the place, not many people delve into the meaning of 420.

The Most Popular 420 Myths and Falsehoods

In the quest to find out the meaning of 420, many people have offered theories and invented stories. Many of these stories evolved over the years to become part of popular Cannabis culture, even though they are not connected to the true origin story at all.

Some people will tell you that 420 refers to criminal code entries, or police radio signs that relate to weed, from California’s penal code to the radio codes used in big cities like New York. This myth has been busted numerous times, but it still hangs on to this day.

Others maintain that 420 is the number of chemical compounds you’ll find in your weed. Again, that’s not true.

Where did the term 420 come from – for REAL?

The phrase 420 stretches all the way back to 1971.The origin involves a group of people from California, “the Waldos,” who always met up to smoke at 4:20 pm. The time of day came from their failed attempt to find a marijuana crop one afternoon. They’d agreed to meet up at 4:20 pm to look for it. The phrase 420 became a shorthand term for smoking pot.

According to, and the Waldos themselves:

The Waldos met at 4:20 for exactly all of the reasons we have discussed in the past:

The time we got out of school was approximately 3 p.m., but some of us had after school sports activities that lasted until after 4 pm.

There was just enough time to get back to the statue of Louis Pasteur to smoke and look for the pot fields drawn in a treasure map.”

The Waldos were fans of the Grateful Dead, and were often present at rehearsals and parties. Their 420 code became part of that setting. From there, High Times and followers of the Grateful Dead are said to be responsible for the phrase spreading into popular culture.

Later on, High Times editor, Steve Hager, noticed the phrase and started using it heavily in the magazine, giving it the publicity that took it global.

where did the term 420 come from

Origin of 420 in Colorado: Past and Present

April 20 (04/20) is a big day for weed lovers. Lots of people in Colorado love getting legally high every April 20th, especially when the clock strikes 4:20. It’s a counterculture holiday, and the origin of 420 in Colorado is greatly due to the activists at the University of Colorado Boulder’s campus smoke fest before later expanding to Denver’s Civic Center – and beyond. 420 in Colorado is growing into recognized celebration attracting people from all over the world to the sunny state.

People love 420 so much that the Mile Marker 420 sign on I-70 was replaced with one reading 419.99 because so many people stole the originals. Since the 1970s, 420 has been used as a code all over the world. On becoming increasingly popular, its meaning became more apparent, even to people who aren’t into weed, but it remains an almost universally-known catchphrase. It was necessary, in the beginning, because of the laws preventing weed use.

Now that marijuana is legal in Colorado, 420 is part of our culture, but more as a celebration and a way of spreading the word! The meaning of 420 can apply to marijuana, accessories, shops, a smoke session and just about anything related to the plant. You’ll see dispensaries advertising 420 in the name or description of brands, products and services. Items you see in the stores are often labeled with names referring to 420. It’s a fun, easy way to inject a bit of history and pop culture into what is now a perfectly legal recreational activity.

The best way to celebrate 420, whether it’s on April 20 or every day now that it’s legal in Colorado, is with high-quality, legalized recreational weed. While we don’t need to use the 420 phrase to hide what we’re up to or to talk discreetly about our love for weed, it’s still fun shorthand that nearly everyone can recognize. Drop by The Spot 420 Pueblo Dispensary or Trinidad Dispensary and you’re sure to find the perfect bud, concentrate, or edibles for a celebratory toke.

The next time you grab your bong, or go looking for 420 accessories, you’ll understand exactly what those three numbers mean, and how they came to be. When you hear someone asking where did the term 420 come from, perhaps speculating the origin of 420 came from a weed-loving celebrity’s date of death or teatime in Amsterdam, you can share your knowledge of the real origin story!

Visit The Spot 420’s Colorado dispensaries to shop for recreational Cannabis and related products. What is there to do for 420 in Colorado? Check out this guide to Colorado 420 events:

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