Every April 20, cannabis enthusiasts worldwide unite in celebrating the plant, but the true meaning of “420” is clouded in mystery. Some report 420 refers to the number of plant molecules; or believe it has a reference to Hitler’s birthday; or it’s the date of Bob Marley’s or Jimi Hendrix’s death (neither died on that day). It is most often reported to be the police code for smoking marijuana in progress. None are true and the origins of the term “four twenty” are much more humble – and simple.
In fact, the term was coined by a group of teens called the “Waldos” in the 1970s on their quest to find an abandoned plot of cannabis in California’s Point Reyes Forest. They continued to use the term as a subtle cue to smoke with friends. Eventually, the Waldos introduced the term to the Grateful Dead’s subculture of the Deadheads. High Times took the term international by referencing the term in events and other pieces of content. It’s a true cultural phenomenon by the Waldos and they haven’t made a dime. But, plenty do today.
While the phrase’s origins are modest, its economic impact on the cannabis industry is great. In 2019, the legal cannabis industry pulled in $90 million on April 20 – its biggest day of the year. The second biggest day, April 19, was 50 percent lower, according to BDSA. Bud Agency caught up with cannabis industry experts on the heels of this year’s 420 to get an idea of what 420 means to them: