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  • Ashley Slimak

The Story Behind How 420 Became a Famous Cannabis Holiday

For as long as most of us can remember, marijuana users have recognized April 20th as the national holiday in support of cannabis. But what is the true origin behind why 4/20 was the chosen date for this holiday?

The story goes back to 1971 in San Rafael, California. Five high school students attending San Rafael High School — Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich, were regular marijuana consumers, and they liked to partake as a group. However, their busy schedules left it difficult to find a time for all of them to get together to smoke. They found out though that all after school activities ended by 4:20 PM, so they settled on getting together at this time every day. The group of friends eventually became known as the 'Waldos' because their usual hang-out spot was a wall located outside of the school where they would partake in marijuana consumption.

This meeting time soon developed into the secret code ‘420’ that they would use for the word cannabis. However, their code-word for cannabis wouldn't end up being secret for much longer.

One of the members of the friend group, Dave Reddix, eventually went on the become a roadie for Phil Lesh. Lesh was the bassist for the Grateful Dead, which propelled the term 420 into the mainstream. In December 1990, a group of Grateful Dead fans handed out flyers in Oakland, California that invited individuals to smoke “420” on April 20 at 4:20 PM.

One of the Deadheads ended up meeting a cannabis enthusiast and former reporter for the High Times Magazine, Steve Bloom. High Times printed the flyer in their magazine in 1991 and continued to reference 420 in future editions of the magazine. Due to the publicity, it soon became known worldwide as code for cannabis. In 1998, the magazine credited the 'Waldos' for being the originators of the term 420.

Since then, April 20th has become a national holiday for the cannabis culture that is recognized and celebrated by marijuana users around the world.


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