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  • Ashley Slimak

How April 20th Became The National Day for Cannabis

History of 420 Cannabis
Find out how April 20th was chosen as the national day for cannabis. [Source: High Times]

For as long as most of us can remember, cannabis users and enthusiasts have recognized April 20th as the national holiday in support of marijuana. But why was 4/20 the chosen date for this holiday? Sure, we've all heard rumors or stories from friends, but what is the true origin story behind the date 4/20?

The story traces back to 1971 in San Rafael, California. Five high school students at San Rafael High School — Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich, were regular cannabis users, and they liked to partake as a group. However, with their busy study schedules and all of their after school extracurricular activities, it was difficult to find a time for them to all get together to smoke some marijuana. As it turns out, all after school activities ended by 4:20 PM, so they settled on getting together at this time each day to smoke. The students eventually became known as the 'Waldos' because their usual hang-out spot was a wall located outside of the school where they would partake in cannabis consumption.

This meeting time soon developed into a code they used for the word cannabis, where they would say “420” to one another to communicate about marijuana without those around them knowing. Unfortunately, their code-word for cannabis wouldn't end up being secret for much longer.

One of the members of the group, Dave Reddix, eventually became a roadie for Phil Lesh. Mr. Lesh is the bassist for the Grateful Dead, which propelled the term 420 into the mainstream. In December 1990, a group of Grateful Dead fans handed out flyers in Oakland, California that invited individuals to smoke “420” on April 20 at 4:20 PM.

One of the Deadheads ended up meeting Steve Bloom who was a former reporter for High Times Magazine and a cannabis enthusiast. High Times printed the flyer in their magazine in 1991 and continued to reference 420 in future editions of the magazine. Due to the publicity, it soon became known worldwide as code for cannabis. In 1998, the magazine credited the 'Waldos' for being the originators of the term 420.

Since then, April 20th, or 420, has become a national holiday for the cannabis culture that is recognized by cannabis users around the world.

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