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What is 420?

In cannabis culture, 420 is the name of the biggest annual celebration. But what do these numbers signify, and what are the origins of this celebration?


While there are many different speculations on how 420 came to be, most sources give credit to five high schoolers, affectionately known as ‘the Waldos,’ who resided in San Rafael, California. 

 


Starting in 1971, these teenagers would gather at the Louis Pasteur statue outside their high school campus at 4:20 p.m. They’d heard a rumour about a secret stash of cannabis plants growing near the Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard Station, and everyday, the group would go looking for the plants. Supposedly tired of the high school jock scene, the group chose this time to go on their search since by late afternoon, most of the school’s extracurriculars had ended. While they never did find any of the rumoured cannabis plants, the term ‘420’ became a code amongst the group, which was a catalyst for what has now become popular cannabis culture [*].


A few years later, one of the Waldos began working with the band Grateful Dead, who helped to popularize the ‘420’ term. In 1990, the Deadheads band members handed out flyers in Oakland, encouraging people to smoke cannabis on April 20 at 4:20 p.m. 

 

As fate would have it, a former journalist of High Times Magazine, Steve Bloom, ended up with a flyer and began to reference ‘420’ in his work. Now the publisher of Celebstoner.com, Bloom explained in a blog post that “[The Waldos] wanted people all over the world to get together on one day each year and collectively smoke cannabis at the same time. They birthed the idea of a stoner holiday, which April 20 has become” [*].


Since 420’s conception in 1971, this day has become an annual event dedicated to celebrating cannabis culture, legalization, and ending prohibition. With global participation, 420 has become a yearly reminder of how far we’ve come with cannabis, and where there is still room to grow.


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