History of 4/20 and the Waldos

(AP photo)

MARQUETTE — April 20 or “4/20” is the largest holiday in the cannabis community.

There are several theories of how the holiday originated but the most credible dates back to 1971, with five high school students at San Rafael High School in Marin County, California.

David Reddix, Steve Capper, Larry Schwartz, Jeff Noel and Mark Gravich were a group of stoners who would hang out at a particular wall in between their classes. The group called themselves “The Waldos” after a term used by comedian Buddy Hackett to describe odd people, according to a 2018 article by The Associated Press.

One afternoon in 1971, a non-Waldo came to visit The Waldos with a map to the location of a marijuana garden in the forest nearby Point Reyes National Seashore. According to The Associated Press, the classmate said the garden belonged to his brother-in-law who was renouncing ownership of the garden and said The Waldos were welcome to the marijuana.

The Waldos made plans to find the garden after school and met in front of the school’s statue of Louis Pasteur at 4:20 p.m., where they would then pile into Capper’s vehicle, listen to a Grateful Dead 8-track tape and pass around joints for the 45-minute drive to the coast.

According to The Associated Press, The Waldos never found the garden but made a promise to continue searching. The Waldos would pass each other in the halls and whisper “420 Louis” to one another as a code to meet at 4:20 p.m. in front of the Pasteur statue when planning another drive to find the garden.

Although the garden was never found, the “420 Louis” code continued and became the phrase used when The Waldos wanted to get high at the statue after school. After, the code was shortened to “420” and meant that the group should get high anywhere, according to The Associated Press.

420 soon spread after The Waldos spent time backstage at the Grateful Dead concerts. The band helped popularize the term and by December of 1990, a group of “Deadheads” handed out flyers that invited people to smoke “420” on April 20 at 4:20 p.m.

According to The Fire Station Cannabis Co.’s “Rolling into 420: History, Traditions & How to Celebrate” article, High Times Magazine credited The Waldos with originating the term in a 1998 publication.

Now the underground code is a worldwide cannabis holiday. Today, 21 states have legalized recreational use of cannabis and 37 states have legalized medical use of cannabis.

Despite more states legalizing cannabis, there are still many who are still incarcerated for cannabis-related crimes when cannabis was still illegal.

One organization is working to fully free every cannabis prisoner.

The Last Prisoner Project is a national non-profit organization dedicated to cannabis criminal justice reform. The organization aims to end America’s policy of cannabis criminalization and repair the harms of the discriminatory and counterproductive crusade, according to the organization’s website.

The organization focuses on prisoner release, record clearance and reentry support. Beyond the three focuses, LPP also works to get those incarcerated access to resources like food, healthcare and phone calls by helping fund their commissary accounts.

Last year, The Fire Station partnered with LPP for their holiday letter writing campaign. The writing campaign connects individuals with people currently incarcerated for cannabis-related charges.

Anyone looking to donate toward LPP can drop monetary donations off at The Fire Station at the check-in desk.

For more information on the history of 4/20, visit online at thefirestation.com/rolling-into-420-history-traditions-how-to-celebrate/. For more information on the Last Prisoner Project, visit online at lastprisonerproject.org.


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