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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

So, 4/20 Is Pot Day -- But Why?

Posted By on Tue, Apr 20, 2010 at 11:50 AM

click to enlarge Lay off! He's got a good reason today!
  • Lay off! He's got a good reason today!
Today, specifically at 4:20 p.m. (and a.m. for the hardcore), large segments of the nation become open-air hotboxes as hordes of stoners toke up. We get it: 420 on 4/20. Like "Catch-22," "23-skidoo" and "Deep-Six," "420" has entered the lexicon as a euphemism -- for pot, in this case.

So, we get it: When we see "420 friendly" in a rental ad; when Sen. Mark Leno jaw-droppingly introduces Senate Bill 420, the Medical Marijuana Program Act -- this makes sense. (Extra credit to Leno: Last week he purportedly returned a reporter's call about the measure at exactly 4:20 p.m. Haw!).

Yet, as in so many etymological questions, it's a lot easier to explain why 420 isn't associated with pot use than why it is. Is it the state penal code for Marijuana use? Nope: Penal Code 420 deals with obstructing free entry to public lands. Is it the number of chemical compounds in pot? Nope. That'd be 315, according to High Times Magazine (and if you can't trust High Times here, who can you trust?).

No, the best account we've heard traces the origin of the phrase back to a troop of High School goof-offs in Marin.

Back in the early 1971, a group of buddies called "The Waldos" began using the term 420 as shorthand for the meet-up time to get baked outside San Rafael High School (take pride, Bulldogs!). Members of the clique recently recounted their tale to a Huffington Post correspondent.

But High Times (them again!) deemed the band of goofs the "founding fathers of 420" as far back as 1998. And while we don't have any names -- here are their memorable faces.

Think nice thoughts about them in, oh, four hours and 30 minutes.

Photo   |   via

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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