What does 420 mean? Answer: The term 420 started as code for when a certain group of youngsters named “The Waldos” would meet up to smoke pot after school. Let’s take a couple steps back and see who these guys are and how/why they came up with 420.

the waldos 420

   The Waldos

For cannabis enthusiasts everywhere, 420 day has essentially been deemed as the holy grail of holidays. The celebration which pays homage to marijuana is now ‘highly’ recognized worldwide. From festivities spanning throughout the day of April 20th, to synchronized smoking activities at 4:20 p.m., this holiday and its celebrators know how to get lit.

Many people celebrate the cannabis cultures infamous 420 holiday simply because they understand 420 is linked to weed. However, most consumers have little understanding of how 420 originated, and what 420 means. The history of this high happy holiday can be traced back to 5 high school students from Northern California. The men crowned as The Waldo’s, are who we must thank for the commiseration for this cannabis celebration.

What started in 1971 as an inside joke and a treasure map has become the annual 420 legend cannabis connoisseurs can’t wait to celebrate.

High Times at San Rafael High

The cultural phenomenon we know today as National Weed Day, or 420 has a unique history of its own. Stemming back to San Rafael high school, where five California teens known as “The Waldos”, congregated alongside a wall outside their high school near a statue of French chemist Louis Pasteur.

The term 420 started as code for when the group would meet up to smoke pot after school. Comedian Buddy Hackett used the term “The Waldos” when referencing odd people- which then ultimately served as the groups nickname. Nearly 50 years ago in 1971, the group of 5 began a quest in search of an abandoned cannabis crop.

San Rafael High School

San Rafael High School – San Rafael, CA

While Dave Reddix, Steve Capper, Mark Gravitch, Jeff Noel, and Larry Schwartz are now in their 60’s, they never imagined 420 would become an annual celebration.

A friend shared information with The Waldos complete with an enticing story, and a treasure map. He told the guys “A couple of guys in the Coast Guard are growing marijuana and for some reason they think that their commanding officer is going to bust them, and they don’t want to be busted. They’re going to abandon the path, so they’re giving us permission to go and pick it. They made a map for us to show where it was,” Capper recalls.

What Exactly Does 420 Mean?

Going on an excursion to find the crops located near the Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard station was a no brainer for the friends. After all, if they found the marijuana- it was the Waldos to keep! They decided to meet at 4:20 p.m., yelling “420 LOUIS, 420 LOUIS” to each other in the hallways as a reminder of meeting time and place. With a mission, a map, and several joints on hand, the guys planned to make history.

what is 420

Over time, they dropped the ‘Louis’ and the code name ‘420’ remained. The first few attempts on their mission were deemed unsuccessful, but that never deterred the Waldos. “We’d meet at 4:20 and get in my old ’66 Chevy Impala and, of course, we’d smoke instantly and smoke all the way out to Pt. Reyes and smoke the entire time we were out there. We did it week after week,” Capper says.

To no avail, the Waldos searched for the garden of ganja. While they may not have found the miraculous field of green, the legend of 420 reigned on. Stating ‘420’ became a marijuana codeword and form of communication for the guys.

Capper reminisces, “I could say to one of my friends, 420, and it was telepathic. He would know if I was saying, Hey-do you wanna go smoke some? Do you have any? Are you stoned right now? All depending on the way you said it. Our teachers didn’t know what we were talking about. Our parents didn’t know what we were talking about.

420 Culture

Today, the 420 meaning represents the ever-growing pot culture in America. With dozens of 420-related trademarks and millions of dollars being made exploiting the number, the meaning of 420 has taken on its own culture.

Phil Lesh (Bassist) - Grateful Dead

Phil Lesh (Bassist) – Grateful Dead

But how did it spread from the Waldos codeword to nationally recognized? The reason it spread from the Waldos to the entire cannabis community is believed to be thanks to Reddix, his brother, and the Grateful Dead.

The 420 code remained within the Waldo circle until they began hanging out backstage at Grateful Dead concerts. “My brother Patrick was and is still good friends with Phil Lesh (the Grateful Dead bassist), and the Grateful Dead,” Reddix said. Reddix also ended up working as a roadie for some of the members of the band.

The backstage hangouts turned into smoking sessions with other roadies and crew members. The term 420 was still being used by those on the crew who made up the Waldo gang. In the late 1980’s, flyers stating 420 was the keyword of stoner culture began circulating at Grateful Dead shows.

Celebrating 420 Day

It’s been admitted that more than 100 million Americans have smoked weed at some point in their lives. Bill Maher took to Change.org to build a petition in hopes of making 4/20 a recognized national holiday. His petition stated, “We celebrate everything from Arbor Day to Groundhog Day to a National Day of Prayer. It’s high time we had a weed day.” While the petition has since been closed, it received 30,000 supporters at the time.

With 420 day right around the corner, cannabis enthusiasts are becoming more and more excited for the holiday annually. With the legalities around marijuana increasing nationwide, more and more states have been hopping on the cannabis bandwagon.

Even if you aren’t an avid cannabis consumer yourself, there are numerous ways to celebrate and support weed appreciation. Whether you take a 420 friendly yoga class, experience a cannabis tour, or just lighting up joints with stoner friends, celebrations are a must for the weed enthusiast on 420!

If you’re looking to experience something new in the cannabis world, check out these 420 offerings:

  1. San Diego Cannabis Tours – Options include complete cannabis experiences, brewery tours with a cannabis twist, private tours, 420 friendly yoga, paint and puff events, and more.
  2. Best San Diego Hikes with Cannabis
  3. And don’t forget the munchies! Best San Diego Restaurants to Cure the Munchies

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