The History of 4/20

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April 20th is recognized globally as a celebration for cannabis enthusiasts. People from all walks of life join together, in unison, to spark up and publicly show their admiration for the beloved plant. In Vancouver, Canada, over 100,000 people attend the 4/20 festival with over 500 vendors. Whether people are traveling to a place with progressive drug laws to experience a more 420 friendly way of life or gather out of protest, April 20th is universally recognized as the day that marijuana is celebrated.

All cannabis users are familiar with the occasion, but few know the history behind 4/20. Many associate the date with the number of compounds in cannabis, police code, or Bob Dylan’s hit song Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35 (12 X 35 = 420). The real story of how the date came about is lost in calls to celebrate and protest draconian cannabis laws. Most people are understandably more concerned about where they will celebrate the occasion than how the date came about.

The origins of the number 420 can be traced back to a group of teenagers in California who called themselves the Waldos. Like many teens in the 1970s, they were on a constant mission to get blazed after school.

This year, when you light up in celebration of one of the most incredible plants in existence, you may have a deeper appreciation for how a group of teenagers could create a worldwide phenomenon. Or maybe you will just concern yourself with what you and your stoner pals are going to eat in about an hour.

The Waldos

In 1971, a group of high school athletes from San Rafael, California, would do what many teenagers found themselves doing after practice, packing into a car and getting high. It wasn’t until the group caught wind of a rumor of a Coast Guard member planted a cannabis crop and left a treasure map, did they begin using the term 4:20. 

“We would remind each other in the hallways we were supposed to meet up at 4:20. It started out 4:20-Louis, and we eventually dropped the Louis.” Steve Capper, one of the members of the Waldos, told the Huffington Post.

Waldo Safaris

The Waldos weren’t your typical stoners. They didn’t enjoy melting into a couch and eating chips. The guys were actively seeking adventures they called safaris. They once snuck into a military airfield during the Vietnam War. They were caught by a mechanic that showed them some of the weapons systems. Another safari consisted of knocking on a door of a lab that was building a hologram city, the Waldos were welcomed inside and given a tour. 

The 420 Treasure Map

The globally recognized term was born when one of the members brought a hand-drawn map with directions to a patch of cannabis plants. They were under the impression that some of the guys from the Coast Guard were scared of getting caught and decided to abandon the grow. 

Naturally, the Waldos were intrigued by the promise of free weed and another safari adventure. At least once a week, the Waldos would meet at a Louis Pasteur statue after football practice before driving out to Point Reyes to hunt for the hidden abandoned grow operation. 

A World-Wide Phenomenon The Waldos never found the weed plants, but they accomplished something much more impressive. They continued to use the term 420 to talk about weed in front of their parents. The phrase caught on and eventually went viral, without the internet. 420 spread to all corners of the earth, becoming a commonly used term in cannabis culture.

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