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How a Group of High Schoolers Inadvertently Created Marijuana’s Favorite Holiday

We’ve waited a whole year, and now it’s here — every cannabis consumer’s favorite holiday – April 20th, otherwise known as 4/20. By now, the term “four-twenty” is known worldwide to relate to marijuana, and even non-cannabis consumers know that April 20th is the unofficial holiday celebrating cannabis. But the history and origin of the holiday has mystified many.

Since we at Greeley Gallery are big fans of cannabis, we thought we’d do a little digging and uncover the truth about our favorite holiday – and our investigative skills did not disappoint! So, light a bowl and settle in while we tell you a true story about how four-twenty came to be.

Youthful Shenanigans

Once upon a time, in 1971, a member of the Coast Guard told a group of high schoolers in San Rafael, California, about a supposed secret cannabis crop the Coast Guard had planted but was no longer able to care for. The Guardsman handed the group, who called themselves the “Waldos,” a hand-drawn treasure map that would lead the Waldos to the crop.

The Waldos, which included Steve Capper, Mark Gravich, Jeffrey Noel, Dave Reddix, and Larry Schwartz, were understandably excited, given they all enjoyed recreational cannabis. They began meeting every day at their favorite hangout spot, which also inspired their group name – a wall near their school, near a statue of Louis Pasteur  (a 19th-century French chemist) to go searching for the cannabis crop using the treasure map.

When did they meet? You guessed it, 4:20 pm after their sports practices ended. They referred to the meetup as “4:20 Louis.” In other words, “four-twenty” originated as a time, not a date.

The story isn’t over yet though. Much to the Waldo’s dismay, even with the map, the hidden abandoned bud proved challenging to locate. Eventually, the Waldos gave up on finding the mysterious crop and shortened their code phrase to simply “4:20.” Little did they know then that their innocent, youthful shenanigans would unwittingly lead to an unofficial, globally celebrated holiday.

While there are countless myths about where the phrase came from, the Waldos have proof of using it in the 70s, which includes handmade memorabilia such as the number 420 on a tie-dyed flag and newspaper clipping of one of the Waldos using the phrase in his graduation speech among other items. Beyond the group’s physical proof, after graduating high school, some of the Waldo members went on to make 4:20 known worldwide – with some help from a little-known journalist and infamous rock band.

From the School Yard to the Rock Stage

The world was a very different place in the 1970s. The Waldos didn’t have social media or internet the way youth does today. So, how did a code word developed by a bunch of stoner kids in California become known around the world? Well, we’ll tell you.

After graduating, some of the Waldo members became well acquainted with members of the legendary rock band, The Grateful Dead. The father of Waldo member Mark Gravitch managed the band’s real estate, and the older brother of “Waldo” Dave Reddix became a roadie for The Grateful Dead’s bassist, Phil Lesh. Waldo member 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.”

In May 1991, the publication High Times was the first to mention both the term “four-twenty” and the date, April 20th, with smoking cannabis. Except they inaccurately attributed the numbers to a police code, which spurred incorrect origin stories.

Later, High Times writer Steven Hager was contacted by members of the Waldo group who wanted to set the record straight. Hager became the first to popularize the Waldos and their claim of being the original 4:20 creators. In 1998, Hager attributed the early spread of the term to Grateful Dead fans, known as Deadheads, which is no surprise considering Waldo’s entwined affiliation with the band.

In the years that followed, the term 4:20 has only spread further and become celebrated by more and more people worldwide every year. Cannabis is becoming increasingly legalized and decriminalized as its many benefits are finally recognized. These days, April 20th is a day of activism and community. A day to consume our favorite cannabis product – whether flower, edible, or beverage – and remind ourselves to take a moment and enjoy this wild ride we call life.

The End.

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about the origin of our favorite and only cannabis holiday. May it inspire you to remember that even the smallest act can grow to influence the entire world.

If you haven’t already, stop by our cannabis dispensary, Greeley Gallery, located in North Portland on the corner of Rosa Parks and Greeley Ave before the holiday, and stock up on your favorite cannabis products to celebrate April 20th in the best possible way.

As always, our friendly and knowledgeable staff is ready and waiting to make suggestions and answer any questions you have. We’re open every day of the week between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. for your convenience. See you soon!

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