The Backstory of the “420” Phrase

4:20 -- A Timeless Tale

The association of the term 4:20 with marijuana culture has persisted for decades, and today, April 20th has transformed into an unofficial global holiday. Have you ever wondered about the origins of this iconic phrase and its significance?

Not surprisingly, the phrase grew from a simple beginning and flowered into a worldwide cultural phenomenon.

The Hunt for a Secret Marijuana Garden

In the early 1970s in San Rafael, California, a group of high school students dubbed themselves the “Waldos.” Legend has it that these five friends were given a map that led to a hidden outdoor marijuana crop near the Point Reyes Coast Guard Station. 

The friends made a plan to find the treasure and agreed to meet after class at their school’s Louis Pasteur statue at 4:20 pm. As they embarked on their quest for the secret garden, they’d use the phrase “4:20 Louis” as code for their treasure hunt.

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Jam Bands and Magazines Catch On


Although the Waldos never found the hidden crop, the phrase “4:20” evolved as a discreet way to discuss smoking marijuana in public without attracting unwanted attention. The term transcended the group’s social circle, partly due to their connection with the band, the Grateful Dead. As the band gained popularity and toured the country, the 4:20 phrase spread, becoming deeply ingrained in marijuana culture.

In 1991, the term reached wider recognition when Steve Hager, the editor of High Times magazine, published an article highlighting its origins. With the magazine’s growing readership, the awareness of 4:20 expanded, solidifying its position as a universal symbol among marijuana enthusiasts.

April 20th – An (Unofficial) International Holiday

Today, April 20th (4/20) has become an unofficial holiday for cannabis lovers, with people around the world lighting up at 4:20 PM to celebrate their shared passion. The Waldos’ simple code has grown into a much-loved cultural icon. Reminiscent of the flower to which it pays homage, it shows how some of the most enduring and culturally shifting phenomena are born from the humblest of beginnings. Happy 420!!

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