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The High History of 4/20: A Comical, Factual Tale

Every year, as April rolls into its third week, a peculiar scent wafts through the air in various parts of the world. This scent heralds the arrival of April 20th, a day beloved by cannabis enthusiasts. Known simply as “4/20,” this day has evolved from obscure beginnings into a global celebration of cannabis culture. But how did this date earn its high honors? Sit back, light up your curiosity (and perhaps something else), and let’s puff-puff-pass through the history of 4/20.


Image of people and map

The Origin Story: The Waldos Meet a Treasure Map


The story of 4/20 begins, rather unexpectedly, with a group of high school students in 1971. In San Rafael, California, a group of friends known as the "Waldos" because of their proclivity for leaning against a wall, embarked on a cannabis-fueled treasure hunt. They had acquired a map said to lead to a hidden cannabis crop planted by a Coast Guard service member who could no longer tend his illicit herbs.


The Waldos decided to meet at 4:20 PM, after their school and athletic obligations, to search for this green gold. Although they never found the crop, their quest continued for several weeks, and "420" became their code for anything cannabis-related. Little did they know, their private joke would grow into a global phenomenon.


Do you celebrate 420?

  • Yes - It's an annual tradition!

  • No - Its just not for me.

  • IDK - Depends what my friends are doing.


From Private Code to Public Celebration


How did a time of day morph into a date on the calendar? Credit (or blame) the Grateful Dead. As the Waldos expanded their cannabis activities, they mingled with the Dead's circle in the Bay Area. The term "420" found fertile ground among the Deadheads, who had a knack for taking things and running (or dancing) with them.


By the early 1990s, "420" had infiltrated the broader cannabis culture. The term gained monumental traction when a group of Deadheads handed out flyers inviting people to smoke "420" on April 20 at 4:20 PM. One of these flyers found its way to Steve Bloom, an editor at High Times magazine. Intrigued, Bloom published the flyer, effectively broadcasting "420" from the counterculture into mainstream awareness.


1990s rock show

Cultural Expansion and Commercialization


As "420" became synonymous with cannabis, April 20th turned into an unofficial holiday, with celebrations popping up at various universities, particularly in Colorado and California. These gatherings emphasized not just the act of smoking cannabis but also advocacy for legalization and education about its benefits.


With the gradual legalization of cannabis in various states and countries, 4/20 has morphed from a subculture celebration into a significant commercial event. Dispensaries offer discounts, brands launch new products, and even non-cannabis companies try to cash in on the “high holiday.”


Quirky 4/20 Facts

  • Legislative Layers: Ironically, California Senate Bill 420, which in 2003 established the state's medical marijuana program, was named after the term (though legislators claim it's a coincidence).

  • In the Air: In Denver, the annual 4/20 rally has featured a public smoking event at 4:20 PM, leading to a visible haze over the city.

  • Flying High: Denver International Airport has had to issue reminders that passengers are not allowed to travel with cannabis, despite what the date might suggest.


New york central park

The Global Reach of 4/20

Today, 4/20 celebrations can be found from Amsterdam to New Zealand, demonstrating the widespread acceptance and normalization of cannabis. These events range from festive gatherings with live music and food to more subdued advocacy movements pushing for further legalization and de-stigmatization of cannabis use.


Conclusion

From a code among friends to a global event, the story of 4/20 is as rich and varied as the strains of cannabis that have proliferated over the years. As society’s attitudes toward marijuana shift, 4/20 remains a potent symbol of both change and chill.


FAQ Section


Q: Why is 4/20 associated with marijuana? A: The term originated from a group of California high school students in 1971, who used "420" as a code for their cannabis-related activities.


Q: Is 4/20 recognized as a holiday? A: While not officially recognized as a national holiday, 4/20 is widely acknowledged within cannabis culture and increasingly by businesses and governments where cannabis is legal.


Q: Are there any legal precautions to consider during 4/20 celebrations? A: Yes, individuals should be aware of their local cannabis laws regarding possession, consumption, and public behavior to ensure they celebrate responsibly and legally.


Q: How has the celebration of 4/20 changed over the years? A: Initially a counterculture celebration, 4/20 has become more mainstream and commercialized as cannabis legalization spreads, including public events, promotional sales, and more widespread participation.


A cannabis dispensary

As we wrap up this high-spirited history, remember that while 4/20 may be a day of fun and relaxation for many, it also symbolizes a changing tide in societal and legal perspectives on cannabis. Whether you’re partaking in the green or simply curious about the buzz, the history of 4/20 offers plenty of food (and herb) for thought!


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