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FILE--This April 21, 2011, file photo shows marijuana growing in the home of two medical marijuana patients in Medford, Ore. Oregon state officials have upheld local regulations blocking people from growing medical marijuana on property zoned for rural residential use. (AP Photo/Jeff Barnard, file)

Here's the actual reason why 4/20 is forever tied to weed


Today is 4/20, a day that will be forever tied to marijuana. But there are a lot of theories as to why that is. So what does the number 420 have to do with cannabis? 

No, it's got nothing to do with Bob Marley (he wasn't born on that date, nor did he die on that date), or Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison. Yes, it's Adolf Hitler's birthday, but that's not the reason either. There aren't 420 chemical compounds in cannabis (there are 315, according to LA Weekly). It's not a police code for weed (but it is a police code for homicide in some districts). 

Here's the true story

It all started with a group of students in San Rafael High School in California in 1971. The group called themselves the "Waldos" and would regularly meet at 4:20 p.m. after classes and football practice around a statue of famous chemist Louis Pasteur. They would smoke a joint and search for a hidden patch of cannabis in the woods nearby. They never found it, or so the story goes. But their private references to "420 Louie" and later just "420' caught on, and there are old documents showing their use of the term.

Phil Lesh.jpg
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR THE GRATEFUL DEAD - TPhil Lesh of The Grateful Dead perform at Grateful Dead Fare Thee Well Show at Soldier Field on Saturday, July 4, 2015, in Chicago, Ill. (Photo by Jay Blakesberg/Invision for the Grateful Dead/AP Images)

The term spread because one of the Waldos was a friend of Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh. The Waldos started hanging out with the band, who picked up the term and gave it a national audience.

FILE - In this April 19, 2014 file photo, partygoers dance and smoke pot on the first of two days at the annual 4/20 marijuana festival in Denver. The annual event is the first 4/20 marijuana celebration since retail marijuana stores began selling in Jan. 2014. A year after Colorado's marijuana tax for schools came in far short of its goal, the fund is setting records and has accrued more money in the first five months in 2015 than it did for all of 2014. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

In the early 1990s, a reporter for cannabis magazine High Times was handed a flier that read: "Meet at 4:20 on 4/20 for 420-ing in Marin County at the Bolinas Ridge sunset spot on Mt. Tamalpais." High Times published the flyer. The rest is history.

We're not political. We're jokesters.
Steve Capper, one of the 'Waldos'

The Waldos are still good friends, and they're still amazed at how their code caught on. 

"It's a phenomenon," said Steve Capper, who now works at a payroll financing company in San Francisco. "Most things die within a couple years, but this just goes on and on."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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