For the "real" dopers: what's the origin of 4:20?

Anyone who’s ever had a pothead friend knows that that they (the potheads, that is) are supposed to smoke a joint at 4:20PM every day. I’d heard this was a counterculture rip on the police code for a pot bust, but I was watching “Insomnia” on Comedy Central last night, which was filmed in Amsterdam, and they had 420 license plates in one of the hash shops. This leads me to believe either this is a more pervasive ritual than I’d thought or the origin of 4:20 is altogether different. Also, don’t the police codes vary in the US from one city to the next? If so I’d assume this police code originated in LA county, but any cites would be appreciated.

Snopes on the matter.

For those too lazy to click the link, esentially it says that “420” is not the police or penal code for any marijuana-related offence, either in California or anywhere else. It comes from a group of kids at California’s San Rafael High School in 1971. 4:20 was the time they’d all meet to smoke. Somehow it caught on.

This has been answered a number of times. A group of high school students in the Bay Area of California in the 1970s had a ritual where they would meet after school and smoke pot at 4:20 pm. It’s pretty well documented. One of the guys saved all of the notes that he and his pals wrote back and forth to each other. The term spread outside of his little group and eventually spread across the world.


Good question. I’ve heard a lot of different explanations about this, but never anything definitive. But the best bet for the truth comes from Steven Hagar, editor of High Times magazine. Steve claims that he and his budies made it up. I couldn’t find anything on the High Times site, but I did find this: - Parenting Teens

One has to wonder when the explanation offered glorifies the explainer. “What, 420? Oh, yeah, I thought that up.” “Who invented bubble hash? I did.” “Doobie? Yeah, that was me, too.” You see what I mean. But then again, no one else has come forward to challenge his claim. And the story is perfectly plausable. So who am I to judge.

I’d go on, but it’s 4:19 somewhere, so I’ve only a minute to spare…

I figured this had been answered before but the last time I looked there was still no operating link to the search engine. Normally I’d find it highly unlikely that a group of teenagers at a small high school in California managed to kick off an international ritual such as the 4:20 ruse, but judging from the info so far there doesn’t seem to be much counter-evidence coming in, so I guess this is the accepted origin. I guess some times urban myths do turn out to be true!