Today’s 4/20, But What Does That Mean?

The date and the time have long been synonymous with cannabis culture. Almost akin to Christmas for potheads, it’s a day- and time- when millions of recreational smokers gather with their friends to enjoy some reefer. Whether they’ve saved some of their finest nuggets or extracts or break out the brand new bowls or bongs they’ve purchased from their local headshop, 420 is a holiday in which millions of people celebrate marijuana.

The question that many have is, how did this come about? Over the years, there have been quite a few differing tales about the phrase 420 and its connection to marijuana. Back in the days, before the internet was a thing, the world was a much different place. Access to information, particularly pertaining to folklore and illegal activity, was pretty hard to come by for most. Rumors about Act 420, police codes, or the Bob Dylan song Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35 – where the chorus repeats “everybody must get stoned,” swirled as the origin.

Fast forward a few decades, we can easily Google that it’s not a police code for marijuana. While 12 x 35 does equal 420, according to Wikipedia, the song Rainy Day Women was released on December 21, 1974, years after the reference was said to have started. Though there have been several propositions to legalize marijuana that reference 420 in their name, those also came much later. Now that we know where it didn’t come from let’s discuss where it did.

According to, in 1971, a group of five California high schoolers, Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravic, heard rumors of pot plants left unattended by a Coast Guard member who left for active duty. The group, which called themselves “the Waldos” because they would gather at a wall outside the school, would meet up daily at 4:20 with a treasure map to search for the elusive plants. While they never were able to locate the weed, they were able to meet up and high.

Twenty years later, in May of 1991, High Times magazine published an article telling the tale of the Waldos, and ever since, 420 has reverberated throughout history as the main marijuana reference. According to Wikipedia, Vivian McPeak, a founder of Seattle’s Hempfest states that 4/20 is “half celebration and half call to action.” So whether you plan to publicly practice civil disobedience or gather privately with your friends to watch How High, Pineapple Express, or Reefer Madness. Today take a puff, and remember that we owe it all to a group of teenage stoners called “the Waldos.”

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