Back when I was in high school, I used to skip school every year on 4/20 with my friends and smoke all day (super original, I know). We fancied ourselves eclectic stoners so we liked to employ every smoking apparatus at our disposal on National Weed Day: blunts, joints, bowls, bubbler, bongs, steamrollers, gravity bongs, apples, etc. In my silly high stupor of youthful dazed blazedness, it never occurred to me to ever ask where 4/20 came from. What’s the history and meaning behind it, who started it and why does every weed smoker now follow the trend religiously?
Well, now that society defines me as a true-blue adult, I’m starting to ask the serious and hard-hitting questions.
As it turns out, a group of students in San Rafael, California helped to coin the popular phrase and practice back in 1971. The friends, who called themselves the Waldos, planned to search for an abandoned cannabis crop field they had learned about from a treasure map made by the grower (seriously). The Waldos designated the Louis Pasteur statued at San Rafael High School as their meeting place and 4:20 P.M. as their meeting time. They referred to their plan as “4:20 Louis,” which was soon shortened to just “4:20” after several failed attempts to find the field. The Waldos then started using the term for marijuana-related activities while ritually blazing up at 4:20 in the afternoon.
Mike Edison argues that Steven Hager of High Times was responsible for popularizing this story by taking it to “mind-boggling, cult-like extremes” and “suppressing” all other origin stories related to 4:20. Sounds like that dude needs to chill out with some 4:20 time of his own.
Thanks to the Waldos (presumably), April 20 has become the designated weed smoking day in North America where friends and strangers gather together to light off.
Now ya know the truth so you can impress all of your stoner buddies on Thursday with this origin story.