A group of five high school boys in San Rafael, Calif., are credited with coining the term “420” in the early 1970s. Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz and Mark Gravich heard about a marijuana plant that was planted by a member of the U.S. Coast Guard, who became unable to tend it. The students obtained a map showing the location. After class, the five athletes would have practice. After that, they would meet at a statue of Louis Pasteur on the campus of San Rafael High School to smoke at 4:20 p.m. then go off in search of the marijuana plant. They began using the term 420 as slang for getting high, a term their parents, teachers and coaches would not know the meaning of.
Several of the students had connections with the Grateful Dead. One had a father who managed the band’s real estate holding. Another had an older brother who was friends with the band’s bass player. The boys used to hang out at a rock club called Winterland and use the term to refer to smoking cannabis.
High Times magazine is credited with making the term 420 widely known. Legend has it that a reporter with the magazine heard fans using the term at a Grateful Dead concert in Oakland in 1990.
In 2003 the California Legislature codified a medical marijuana law passed by voters. The piece of legislation was assigned the name Senate Bill 420. Earlier this year, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) introduced House Resolution 420, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, which intends to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.
April 20 has become a day to celebrate the use of marijuana and for political advocacy to promote legalization. In cities around the world, people light up in public at 4:20 p.m.
This reporter was not familiar with the term until hearing talk radio show host Tom Leykis using it on the air with his callers. How about you, dear readers? How did you learn the meaning of 420? How will you celebrate 420? We suggest visiting Token Therapy for their bong giveaway and barbeque. It is located at 5917 N. 26thSt. in Tacoma.