Dude, what's the meaning of 420?

Normal Joint DiagramThe internet is abuzz this 4/20 with stories of high-class weed smoking promotional events in California and college pot heads run amok.

But HuffingtonPost has a great article, claiming to tell the 'true story' of the origin of the term that connects pot smoking to April 20, and 4:20pm.

While I, like many people, always thought that 420 was a reference to the police code for the crime of smoking pot, the HuffPo article traces the term to a group of teenagers known as the 'Waldos' in Marin County, Ca., through their association with the Grateful Dead, and out into the mainstream via High Times magazine.

It's always interesting to contemplate how a term, especially one that's necessarily associated with a subculture (because of its illegality), becomes widespread. People often make half-hearted attempts to 'start' a slang term, and have it become a 'big thing.' But I think the meandering, luck-filled tale depicted here shows just how difficult it is to do something like this intentionally. You would have to have a group that was already dedicated to using the term casually -- in this case, the Waldos used the term more because it was a convenient euphemism that authority figures didn't recognize -- and then they would have to have social access to some important cultural group like a band, or a magazine, who would only adopt the phrase if it was useful and genuinely being used -- not pushed.

Besides that, most users of the phrase would never know the true origin story, and certainly wouldn't associate it with the individuals that started it. The Waldos have lived in relative obscurity all this time, despite reaching out to High Times to claim the term at some point. And even with the prestige an article like this one finally brings, as one of the Waldos says, "We never made a dime on the thing".

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