Contrary to popular belief, 420, the fabled code known among potheads as meaning marijuana, is not the police code for the controlled substance. Nor is it a verse from the Bible, or a reference to a Bob Marley song.
Regardless, April 20 – or 4/20 – has become recognized as a holiday for celebratory marijuana users.
“As far as I know, 420 isn’t a marijuana police code that I know of,” Glendora Sgt. Tim Staab told Patch last year. “Where it comes from, I don’t know.”
The term, although known world-wide, apparently has more simple origins. According to the Huffington Post, a group of friends at San Rafael High School in California called the Waldos (yes, the Waldos) would meet outside school at 4:20 to smoke pot.
One day, they heard about an untended marijuana garden in the area, and they met thereafter at 4:20 to begin the search. The friends searched for miles looking for the patch, but never found it. But their code became famous as members of the Waldos were also regulars in the hippie entourage of the Grateful Dead and in the Haight-Ashbury scene in San Francisco. The term spread among the pot-filled smoking circles.
Since then, the time 4:20, and the date April 20, has become designated for pot use.
According to Staab, local police don’t see an increase in arrests for marijuana on or around 4/20, but police still have a heightened awareness of the drug during the date. Still, Staab noted that these days, it's very easy to avoid arrest for pot possession.
Because the date also falls on Hitler’s birthday, police agencies will also watch out for Neo-Nazi groups and hate group activities, said Staab.
On April 20, 2009, 20-year-old Ronson Edgerly was killed during a weed party in Glendora. Zachary Flanders, a 21-year-old from La Verne, met with Edgerly during a marijuana buy when Flanders attempted to snatch the drugs away. The two struggled before Flanders fatally shot Edgerly.
Flanders was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.