Why Cannabis Users Celebrate 4/20

What do five high schoolers, a treasure map leading to supposedly abandoned cannabis, and the Grateful Dead have in common? Well, it turns out they all play a role in the true story of the origination and spread of the term 4/20. 


Maybe you’ve smoked at 4:20 (a.m. or p.m.) on April 20 before but don’t know where the marijuana celebration came from. Perhaps you’ve heard rumors about how the weed holiday came to be, but where did 4/20 come from, really? 


Here’s how an inside joke between stoner friends became a worldwide phenomenon. 




It all began in 1971 with five high schoolers at San Rafael High School who liked to smoke weed together. The friends — Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich — were nicknamed the Waldos since they often sat atop a wall on their school’s campus. 


The Waldos loved consuming cannabis and going on adventures, which they called safaris. One day, a friend gave them a map that allegedly led to an abandoned cannabis crop that Coast Guardsmen had grown. Their friend’s brother was one of the men who had planted the crop, but the men abandoned it for fear of getting caught, the Waldos were told. 


An adventure that could lead to free weed? Enough said. 


The map marked the cannabis as being at Point Reyes, which was about 45 minutes from where the Waldos lived. The Waldos planned to meet after school at 4:20 p.m. It was the perfect timing to allow the group members to finish up after-school activities. They’d regularly meet at their school’s sculpture of the famous French chemist, Louis Pasteur, to then set out in search of the weed. 


The Waldos would say, “4:20 Louis,” to each other in the hallways as a reminder of the meeting place and time. They never did find the cannabis, but they did drop the Louis and keep the term 4/20 since they realized it was a way to talk about weed in front of their parents and others without getting caught. 




So, how did the term catch on? The phrase 4/20 caught on in part because the group had many connections to the Grateful Dead. Waldo Dave’s brother was good friends with Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh and Waldo Mark’s father worked with the band members as a realtor. As a result, the Waldos had access to rehearsals, shows, and afterparties. While hanging out backstage or during rehearsals, they used their term 4/20, and it caught on within that community. 


The High Times magazine also helped spread the word. When Steven Bloom, a reporter for High Times, went to a Grateful Dead concert in Oakland in late 1990, he was handed a flyer that advertised a meeting at 4:20 p.m. on 4/20 for some 420-ing. High Times published the flyer and helped launch the phrase broadly.


Later, the Waldos came forward and began to share their story to set the record straight about the origins of 420, including to Steven Hager of High Times. Many letters and photos corroborate the Waldos’ tale as the inventors of 4/20. 


The term became iconic enough to become a code word for smoking weed. Though the Waldos smoked at 4:20 p.m., the phrase eventually became recognized as the date 4/20 as well. The unofficial holiday has been used to raise awareness of the stigmas against marijuana and as just another reason to consume cannabis. 




If you want to celebrate 4/20, our knowledgeable cannsultants at Prosper are here to help you find what you’re looking for, whether you’re curious about weed and are going to consume marijuana for the first time or if you’ve celebrated this great holiday time and time again.   


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