Smoke to Know : The Origins of 4:20


Often times, people participate and indulge in  rituals they know nothing about.  Some do it to be social or to fit in with the crowd, negligent  of doing research or understanding the history of a traditional movement. If it looks fun and the brain receives some type of adrenaline or dopamine experience from it, people are eager to join the bandwagon.

So what’s the whole deal behind 4/20?

On this day 4/20, many people join together fraternizing in harmony , with efforts to smoke all the marijuana they possibly can. 4/20 is in comparison to St.Patties Day ( a Irish religious holiday, where many  abuse alcohol or use an excuse to become incoherently drunkards for the day), the only difference is the substance that is used. While many will choose to engage in this tradition, where does the origin of 4-20 come from?

Many reasons of how 4/20 started include the number being “police code” for marijuana,  there are 420 chemical compounds found in marijuana, and the two most ironic yet weird reasonings which is Adolf Hiltler’s birthday being April 20th, 1889 and the Columbine taking place on April 20th, 1999. But have you ever heard of a group of people called the Waldos? The Waldos, a group of five high school students from San Rafael, California,  chose their name because of their chosen hang-out spot, which was a wall outside the school.

4/20 came about as a mission in 1971, to find  an abandoned cannabis crop that had recently been discovered. Louis Pasteur statue (on San Rafael High School grounds), became the designated spot to meet up at 4:20 pm every day in search of the cannabis in the Point Reyes Forest. The Waldo’s had specific code such as 4:20 Louis in order to reference the plan to group members.

The Huffington Post even shares the story of The Waldo’s and 4/20  from Waldo Steve and Waldo Dave (members of the Waldos) stating :

“It goes like this: One day in the Fall of 1971 – harvest time – the Waldos got word of a Coast Guard service member who could no longer tend his plot of marijuana plants near the Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard station. A treasure map in hand, the Waldos decided to pluck some of this free bud”.

4:20 Louis was shortened to 4:20 due to failed attempts of finding the plot and was used to talk about marijuana smoking. 420 was also code to ask others if they had a stash of marijuana on them and to keep marijuana-related activities on the downlow from parents, teachers, and police.

In the 90s, an American Rock Band, The Grateful Dead, helped spread the awareness or “wake and bake” notion  of 4/20 and has had music and business relations with the Waldos.  So all the myths on how 4/20 got started are just that, myths.

How  will subculture help the larger society understand the origins of this day 4/20, instead of it being just a day for stoners?


Author Ryan Grim “420 History: The Story Behind April 20 Becoming ‘Weed Day'”

Author Laura, Rosenfeld “The History Of 420: How April 20 Became National Weed Day”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s