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How 4/20 evolved from a slang term to a national holiday

 

The changing perception of cannabis and its users is steadily shifting to the point that laws are being made to allow the use and sale of marijuana. Decriminalization is even beginning to take place in some states.

With April 20 coming up, many understand that the term “420” is used as a reference to weed culture. That being said, a lot of people do not know where the actual reference originated from.

The term dates back to 1971 in Marin County, California. Five students from San Rafael High School would meet at a statue at the same time every day after school. To them, 4:20 was when all their extracurricular activities (they were all athletes) would end and they would link up.

The five consisted of Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz and Mark Gravich. These five eventually gained the nickname “the Waldos” due to the location of their meetings. In 2017, Dave Reddix told TIME Magazine “we got tired of the Friday-night football scene with all of the jocks. We were the guys sitting under the stands smoking a doobie, wondering what we were doing there.”

They would remind each other in the hallways of their new tradition, murmuring “4:20” as they passed one another. When they would meet together, they would smoke and go on various adventures while under the influence, calling these experiences “safaris.”

Using their connections, members of the Waldos wound up getting jobs as roadies for the band Grateful Dead. They began working with bassist Phil Lesh. Whenever the band was backstage or behind the scenes and was smoking weed, they would pass it around and say “Hey, 420.” And this term slowly began to catch on.

Steven Bloom, a former reporter for High Times magazine (leading source for cannabis news), was at a concert for the Grateful Dead in Oakland, California in 1990. At this concert, he was given a flyer that read “we are going to meet at 4:20 on 4/20 for 420-ing in Marin County at the Bolinas Ridge sunset spot on Mt. Tamalpais.” Bloom held onto the flyer and wound up revisiting it and sending the flyer to High Times. The magazine printed out that flyer and continued referencing the number in future publications.

It did not take long for the term to become the international number for cannabis. In 1998, the Waldos were coined the inventors of the saying.

Bloom credited the Waldos in a post in 2015, saying that “they wanted people all over the world to get together on one day each year and collectively smoke pot at the same time. They birthed the idea of a stoner holiday,” and since 4:20 was the time the Waldos would meet, it translated to the date that is 4/20.

Since the rise of the cannabis culture, references to marijuana have appeared throughout recent and past pop culture. “Pulp Fiction,” the Cheech and Chong movies or television shows like “That 70s Show” include jokes and themes of marijuana. As days come and go, the people are starting to recognize the positives on marijuana use and more and more states are beginning to allow it.

As for today, two of the five Waldos want to stay away from the limelight. But, rumor has it that all of the Waldos could be working on a documentary, or some form of testimony, to give to the archives so we can hear their story first hand.

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