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The History of How 4/20 Came to Be

cbd 4/20
Written by Alexandra Hicks

April 20th (4/20) is upon us and cannabis users all over the country are preparing – buying their favorite strains, making plans with their friends, even dispensaries often have little parties complete with sales, gift bags, food, and music during what’s now considered the world’s unofficial “stoner holiday”.

But the history behind this important day in the cannabis industry remains hazy. How did it start? There are so many different 4/20 stories out there and if you’ve been a cannabis or CBD user for a while you’ve likely heard quite a few… It’s the number of active chemicals in cannabis. It’s teatime in Holland. It’s those numbers in that Bob Dylan song when multiplied together.

The real history of 4/20

cbd 4/20

San Rafael High School where the Waldos attended

None of the above stories are accurate. We traced the origin of this term back to a group of five teens from San Rafael, California, who were appropriately nicknamed “the Waldos” due to their preferred hang out spot – a wall outside of their high school. In the fall of 1971, the Waldos heard about a coast guard member who planted some cannabis but was no longer able to tend to it. Every day after school, they would pile into a car, smoke some buds, and search the Point Reyes Forest for this legendary crop. Their daily meeting time? 4:20 p.m.

They never did find the elusive crop, but they did however start a trend at their high school. The phrase “420” quickly spread around the student body because it allowed teens to talk about cannabis openly while their parents and teachers were none the wiser.

So, how did it become an internationally coined term?

Trends spread around high schools all the time, but how did the 420 become internationally known? That took some star power, for which we have the Grateful Dead to thank. The Waldos had connections with the Grateful Dead. Mark Gravitch’s father managed the band’s real estate and Dave Reddix’s older brother was good friends with Phil Lesh, the Dead’s bassist.

At a Dead concert during Christmas weekend 1990, High Times reporter Steve Bloom was handed a flyer that read, “We are going to meet at 4:20 on 4/20 for 420-ing in Marin County at the Bolinas Ridge sunset spot on Mt. Tamalpais.” Once High Times printed the story, accompanied by a photo of the flyer, it was game over.

What is 4/20 today?

cbd 4/20

A 4/20 event in Vancouver, Canada, from 2012

Today, 4/20 is the unofficial cannabis holiday and it’s celebrated worldwide. Denver, Colorado, boasts the world’s largest 4/20 event known as the Mile High 420 Festival, which takes places at Civic Center Park in the heart of downtown. In California, there are multiple large cannabis events on April 20th, all the way from Oakland to Los Angeles. Up north, Canadians celebrate various events as well.

Many dispensaries, especially recreational ones, will have 4/20 events for all who want to partake. Typically you’ll find awesome discounts, gift bags, activities, music, raffles, food and more. Online retailers will also offer hard to pass up deals on April 20th.

Even CBD companies have massive sales on 4/20. After all, CBD is the second most dominant cannabinoid in the cannabis plant, so it shouldn’t be overlooked on this industry holiday.

Check out our list of 4/20 CBD deals HERE, we will update the list as more sales arise.

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About the author

Alexandra Hicks

Managing editor at Cannadelics and U.S based journalist, helping spread the word about the many benefits of using cannabis and psychedelics.