It is no secret that 4/20 is the cannabis industry’s Black Friday. This year alone, approximately $1.17 billion worth of cannabis products were sold throughout the nation. That is a lot of green! But as another 4/20 ushers past us, it is important to take a few minutes to look into the history of 420.

How it all began

The story begins back in 1971 in San Rafael, California. A group of five high school students known as The Waldos – Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich – heard about a small, abandoned marijuana grow in the Point Reyes Forest. Eager to find this field of green gold, the friends planned to meet at the Louis Pasture statue outside their school and track it down. The designated time for this adventure to take place? You guessed it, 4:20 PM after they were done with sports practice.

Every week the friends would use the code “420 Louis” to relay the plan to meet and look for the elusive marijuana plants. They soon developed a routine where they would meet, light up, pile into a ‘66 Chevy Impala and begin their search. The group eventually dropped “Louis” from code name and lo and behold; 420 was born.

420 soon became code for anything to do with smoking a joint and the Waldos used it frequently among themselves. According to the members, it was a great way to communicate about weed among themselves without anyone else knowing what they were talking about. Sadly, The Waldos never found the abandoned marijuana grow.

How the word spread

It was around the same time (late ‘60s, early ‘70s) that the band the Grateful Dead moved to Marin County hills, which was not far from the school the Waldos attended. The Waldos had plenty of access to the band because one of the members’ dad managed their real estate and another’s brother managed their shows.

As such, the Waldos often found themselves hanging out with the band members and partaking in a little bit of cannabis. During their hangouts, the Waldos often referred to 420 before lighting up, and it was not long before others around them, the Grateful Dead included, started using the term.

Then in 1990, High Times reporter Steven Bloom was handed a flyer in a parking lot outside a Grateful Dead concert. The flyer 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 had never heard the term 420 before and tried to dig up its origins, which he reported in High Time in May 1991.

Once the term was printed, there was no looking back. 420 is now a commonly used term among cannabis users, and April 20th has become a holiday for cannabis lovers all across the globe.

So when you light up on 4/20, spare a thought for the Waldos and say a little thank you for their high school shenanigans that gave rise to this magic number and day of celebration.