By April Veinte

For years, 420 has been a part of conversations.  April 20th (4/20) is a largely recognized holiday for cannabis or marijuana users.  420 is also the inexact number of active chemicals found in cannabis, the fictional police code for marijuana, and of course, there’s the Bob Dylan song.

The truth is that 420 can be traced back to 1971, where five friends studying at San Rafael High School coined the term. According to sources, these friends were known as “Waldos” since they loved to hang out on a wall outside the school. After much speculation, in 2012, two of the “Waldos” went on record with the Huffington Post and finally shared the true origin of 420. It was fall of 1971 when the friends heard about a secret marijuana patch at Point Reyes close to their school. It was assumed that the farm was owned by a Coast Guard member who was no longer able to look after the plants. Armed with a map, the “Waldos” planned to hunt for the free weed, pot, bud, green, kush (well, you get the point).

They planned to meet at Louis Pasteur’s statue on their school campus at 4:20pm. The term was originally “4:20 Louis” to serve as a reminder for their meeting place and time, but it was shortened to simply 420. For several weeks, the “Waldos” searched the area looking for the farm. They never found the patch, but instead discovered a new code they can use for marijuana. With a code in place, the crew could talk freely about smoking marijuana without the knowledge of their parents and teachers.

The history of 420 could have ended there, but this story got an unexpected boost from the legends of psychedelic rock, the Grateful Dead. When the hippy culture in San Francisco came under fire during the late 1960s and early 1970s, most left the area and headed to more peaceful settings. When the Grateful Dead departed from San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury area, they lived in the foothills of Marin Country, a few blocks from San Rafael High School. It must have been fate, because they connected with a member of the “Waldos”; who then passed on the term 420 to GD bassist, Phil Lesh, during a smoke session. In next few months of their tours, it was assumed that the Grateful Dead took the term to different parts of the country and beyond. Soon, 420 started to pop up even in the most unexpected areas, far from Northern California’s counter-culture enclaves. A few years later, the term was picked up by High Times and took off from there, filtering into all aspects of pot culture and is now extensively recognized even in pop culture.

On April 20th, 2009, two of the more famous friends of Mary Jane, Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson, recorded a song together called “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die”.

Of course, there will 420 events across the country this April 20th. One such event is Colorado Cannabis Week in Denver, Colorado, featuring tours, cooking classes, painting classes, dinner parties and more. So whether you want to go big or stay home, release your inner “Waldo” this April 20th and enjoy.


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