Listen to Keefer weekday afternoons from 3pm-8pmFull Bio



1971 - Why do we associate 4/20 with weed? The most credible story traces 4/20 to Marin County, Calif. In 1971, five students at San Rafael High School would meet at 4:20 p.m. by the campus’ statue of chemist Louis Pasteur to partake. They chose that specific time because extracurricular activities had usually ended by then.

Of course the relationship between ganja and music runs long and deep. That marijuana has a pleasurable effect both on the making and enjoying of music is hardly a controversial point. Scientists have their theories on why stoned listening is so common, centered around cannabis’ ability to increase deep focus and alter perception. But the fact that practically every concert held for the last 40 years has smelled vaguely of pot provides enough proof that the connection is real.

A brief and very incomplete history:

Cannabis cigarettes ("jazz cigarettes') were commonly sold at American jazz clubs in the 1920s.

The embrace of psychedelics by 60's rock and roll artists played a huge role in normalizing cannabis use for the general public. 1966 might be the moment the dope dam broke, with all-enveloping records, like The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and The Beatles Revolver, made by and for pot smokers (among other mind altering substances...). Even a seemingly innocent tune like “Got to Get You Into My Life” has since been explained by Paul McCartney as a love song to weed.

Perhaps no genre is as intrinsically tied to cannabis as reggae. Born in the Jamaica of the late 1960s, the music style was deeply linked to the island’s Rastafarian religion, in which cannabis is considered a sacred sacrament.

Bob Marley’s face, a cloud billowing from his mouth, has adorned countless dorm room walls for decades, as an incredibly recognizable icon for pot positivity. Marley’s band member Peter Tosh first mainstreamed the idea of cannabis legalization in no uncertain terms on his 1976 single, “Legalize It”.

Weed’s roots in metal go all the way back to Black Sabbath. They recorded the first song to start with a taped loop of coughing from a joint rip gone bad. That song, 1971’s “Sweet Leaf”, is a pure ode to the glory of ganja, with no winks, nods, or metaphors. It situates a high-brow case for cannabis use amid its thundering riffs. “You introduced me to my mind.”

Popular music has moved steadily from rock and roll to hip hop since the 1990s, and the bulk of cannabis representation in popular culture has moved there too. Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, named for potent weed and picturing a cannabis leaf on the face of its CD, has sold 5.7 million copies since its 1993 release. That album also featured the debut performance of Snoop Dogg, who’s gone on to become, arguably, the biggest musical icon for mary jane since Marley.

There is a surprisingly long history of reefer-related C&W songs, and even more surprisingly, there were a lot of favorable ones even back in the days when country music was the stuff of flag-waving, hippie-hating, retro Americanism. “Okie from Musgokee”, which infamously starts on the line “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee”, got Merle Haggard invited all the way to Nixon’s White House. Never mind that his original intent was satirical, and he became a full-fledged cannabis advocate. Country music has embraced weed, from Merle, Willie and Johnny (by way of Kris Kristofferson) to Erich Church, Kacy Musgraves, and Zac Brown.

As a personal aside, I smoked my first joint in 1972. I was in the 8th grade. My buddy Bill and I raided his older brother's cigar box where he kept his stash. We left a Friday night high school football game at half time and sparked up...we then spent the rest of the night laughin', talkin', and walking around our little town in SE Illinois. Eventually Joe's Pizza was our final destination. We poured ever quarter we had into the jukebox playing the hits of the day and devouring a peperoni pizza. I thought, "This stuff ain't bad, it'll be legalized in a few years...OK, so it took a little longer...

As I said, a short an incomplete history. Feel free to hit up the comments section to fill any holes or share some of your personal experiences. Happy 4/20. Educate before you recreate. Enjoy!

BTW, Happy Birthday to Stephen Marley. If you missed his session in KBCO Studio C on Tuesday, I'll play highlights of it this weekend during Sunday Morning In KBCO C at 9. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

On This Day In Music History was sourced from Time, The Bluntness, Leafy, and Salon.

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content