The Best 420 Memes (And the Meaning of 420)
420 is almost here and if you know anything about cannabis culture, you know what that means! It’s time to get high and have some laughs while we review some of the best funny 420 memes. But first, let’s go back a little. Does anyone even know the origin and meaning of 420, the haziest day of the year, the one and only holiday that gives prop to the original stoners? Not gonna lie — we had to do some googling to discover the real 420 meaning (and 4/20 and also 4:20). What does 420 mean? Keep reading to the end for our favorite funny 420 memes!
We came across a few explanations behind the 420 meaning, the most common stemming from a group of California teens. According to Vox, former High Times Editor Steven Hager told the New York Times that the 420 holiday originated in the 1970s from a group of Californian teens that smoked weed every day at 4:20 p.m. That eventually translated to 4/20 on the calendar, and the stoner holiday was born.
The group called themselves The Waldos and have since come forward with what they claim to be the first documented and physical proof of 420 being used. The phrase started as “420 Louis,” which signaled each other to meet at 4:20 by the Louis Pasteur statue outside the high school to get high. The ritual caught on (no surprise there!), and 420 became the code for getting high.
The legend goes on to claim the father of one of the Waldos handled some real estate deals for the Grateful Dead, and the real estate agent’s older son became friends with the Dead’s bassist. The younger brother started hanging out, shared the 420 shorthand and the Dead liked it.
Another popular theory is that 420 was the California penal code for cannabis, but when we looked it up, California Penal Code 420 relates to obstruction of entry on public land. Not so much. It has also been said the police officers use “420” as code for “marijuana smoking in progress.”
That theory was first documented in 1990 when Steve Bloom, High Times magazine senior editor, saw a flyer at a Grateful Dead concert that told the meaning of 420. That article was shared by Huffington Post. But that theory was busted, and the Waldos story emerged five years later.
A lesser-known theory suggested that the 420 meaning was based on the number of active chemicals in cannabis. But some sources say the actual number is more than 500, some say approximately 400 and apparently no one is actually claiming 420 as the definitive number.
Vox also claimed the earliest written link between marijuana and 420 comes from the 1939 short story “In the Walls of Eryx” by H.P. Lovecraft and Kenneth Sterling. The story references “curious mirage-plants” that seemed fairly similar to marijuana and appeared to get the narrator high at, according to his watch, around 4:20.
We may never know for sure who coined the 420 meaning first, but we love cannabis culture and we love the sentiment. And while we have come a long way, we love paying homage to our roots and we love funny 420 memes (aka 4:20 memes, or is it 4/20 memes? Who cares, we got ’em!). Laughing while high — what could be better?! So roll it up, light it up, smoke it up, inhale — exhale. And try not to laugh!
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This article was originally published on April 13, 2022. It has been updated and expanded. Got a good 420 meme?! Share it in the comments below!