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The History Behind Marijuana’s Favorite Holiday: 4/20

We’d guess just about anyone who’s familiar with marijuana has heard ‘420’ mentioned, probably more than once. It’s our favorite holiday, at Greeley Gallery in north Portland. Today it’s morphed into a holiday on the twentieth day of the fourth month, April 20th, where recreational stoners celebrate by getting high.

But where did 420 come from? Rumors about its origin have spread far and wide. Some believe there are 420 active chemicals in marijuana, others say it’s the police code for when someone reported marijuana use. The rumors are vast, so what’s the truth?

What’s 420?

The truth is, we celebrate April 20th, but the origins of 420 isn’t a date at all, but the time 4:20. It all started in 1971 with five teenagers in California nicknamed, “the Waldos”, because they hung out by a wall at their San Rafael school.

The Waldos learned about a supposed cannabis crop planted by a member of the Coast Guard who was no longer able to care for the plants. The group was given a hand drawn map to the cannabis crop but is was still difficult to find. Which is why the Waldos met at a statue near their school at least once a week to go searching for this mysterious abandoned bud. When did they meet? You guessed it, 4:20, after their sports practices ended.

The group reminded each other in the halls of school to meet at 4:20 and it quickly became their code. Which was later used as a way to discuss smoking weed without any teachers or adults knowing.

How Did 420 Become Global?

Of course, there wasn’t any social media in the 1970s. So how did a code word developed by a bunch of stoner kids in California grow to become known around the world? We can thank the Dead – the Grateful Dead that is.

Coincidentally, the father of one of the Waldos, Mark Gravitch, happened to manage the Dead’s real estate. The older brother of Dave Reddix, another Waldo, managed a Dead sideband and was friends with Phil Lesh, the Dead’s bassist.

Waldo, Steve Capper, told the Huffington Post, “There was a place called Winterland, and we’d always be backstage running around or on stage, and of course, we’re using those phrases. When somebody passes a joint or something, ’Hey, 420.’ So, it started spreading through that community.”

Then, at one of the Grateful Dead concerts during Christmas week in 1990, a flyer was passed around inviting everyone to meet in Marin Country at the Bolinas Ridge sunset spot on Mt. Tamalpais at 4:20 on 4/20 to 420. The flyer also included the Waldo’s story and the origin of 420.

A reporter for “High Times”, Steven Bloom, was handed one of the flyers at the concert in Oakland, California. Bloom wrote about it and after High Times published the story, the phrase was launched internationally.

Final Thoughts

There’re plenty of myths about the beginning of 420, but the Waldos have proof of using it in the 70s. They have a newspaper clipping from where one of the members talks about using 420 in his high school graduation speech, their original 420 tie-dyed flag, and numerous letters from the members filled with various 420 references locked away in a San Francisco bank vault.

There you have it! Now come on down to pick up some high-quality cannabis from Greeley Gallery to celebrate! Our staff will be happy to find the best cannabis strain for you. Or pick up some edibles and or infused drink to toast to the glory that is marijuana. After all, it’s 420!

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