For many cannabis consumers around the world, April 20 is a much-anticipated holiday. It’s a time when we can come together and appreciate the power of this medicinal plant, an herb that brings many of us greater wellness and healing. It’s a time to sit back, relax and enjoy everything wonderful about cannabis and feel grateful for all the bounty it brings to our lives. After all, cannabis is widely used to treat pain, nausea, anxiety, depression, muscle spasms and seizures, among many other ailments.
Given all the benefits of cannabis, it makes sense that we would celebrate this plant. But what is significant about the 420 date? What is the story behind this special day? We’ve rounded up some of the best answers for you, from some of the most reputable cannabis sources around.
Learn The Roots of 420
Aside from reminding us that 4:20PM every day is widely known as a time to consume cannabis, Weedmaps reports that the origin of this story begins in the 1970s with a group of five San Rafael High School friends. These friends dubbed themselves the Waldos, because you guessed it, they hung out by a wall outside of their school. The group coined the term “420” for their outings in search of marijuana planted by U.S. Coast Guardsman Gary Newman growing somewhere unknown in Point Reyes. As the story goes, Newman’s brother-in-law gave the Waldos a treasure map saying the crop was theirs if they found it. The operation was known as “420 Louis” among the Waldos and became a coded invitation to meet every day after sports practice at the statue of Louis Pasteur in front of their campus to consume before heading out on their search. Eventually, the term got shortened to “420” and it stuck around even when they eventually gave up on the hunt for the coveted cannabis.
If you want to learn more about the Waldos, check out their website. There you will learn a ton of history about how the term 420 came to be and has since become embedded in popular culture. For instance, did you know that despite popular belief, the high school students from Marin County, California weren’t your typical hippie stoners? Yes, they smoked and enjoyed cannabis. However, they were also athletes and double-honors students, award-winning animation filmmakers and painters. One was even the son of the head of NARC (narcotics enforcement) in the San Francisco Police Department, which gave them valuable insider knowledge on drug search and seizure laws.
The king of cannabis culture magazines, High Times, also points to the Waldos as the origin of 420. However, there was some controversy in the 90s that confronted the students’ legacy. In 1990, according to the magazine, a mysterious flyer promoting 420 circulated at Grateful Dead shows, namely in the Northern California area. Strangely, the flyer makes its way from a show in Oakland to the High Times office in New York. San Rafael was the home of Grateful Dead Productions, which links back to the original Waldos, but the group was not mentioned in the flyer. In 1991, High Times publishes the flyer, which claims that 420 started in San Rafael, CA as police code for “marijuana smoking in progress.” The flyer also promotes “the grandmaster of all holidays: 4/20 or April 20th.” However, in 1998, High Times debunks the “marijuana smoking in progress” theory and declares the Waldos the original source of the phrase 420, after the group comes forward with posters and letters to prove their claim.
But before that controversy, the idea of 420 spread quickly among Grateful Dead fans becoming truly a grassroots movement, according to Leafly. At first, the phrase was a clandestine way for cannabis enthusiasts to find each other during a repressive time in our culture. But as cannabis acceptance has become more mainstream, many people use the term to find “420-friendly” roommates or romantic partners, making the phrase an indication of similar values and identity. Another interesting tidbit in 420 history happened in the mid-nineties when the Cannabis Action Network decided to have its first event in San Francisco – on April 20, starting at 4:20 PM and ending at 4:20 AM the next morning. Since then, many cannabis organizations and companies have followed suit and the date has become one of celebration and acknowledgment of this powerful plant.
No matter how you celebrate this year, take pause. Think about how far we have come in bringing cannabis to those who need it the most, the many people involved in taking cannabis from the shadows of prohibition to where we are today with legalization.
Here at the WCM, we are celebrating this month with deals leading up to April 20. Stay tuned on social media and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter or text message marketing program to receive updates.