Five teenagers who called themselves the “Waldos” came up with the term well before it swept the nation.
420 is weed’s magic number. While the origins of the date are not known by the average marijuana user, even those who know of the drug peripherally have heard of the popular weed reference. Where does the date come from?
Some of the explanations behind this date are ridiculous, with some claiming that it stems from Adolf Hitler’s birthday (?), that the marijuana plant contains 420 different elements or that 420 is the code police officers used when they spotted someone smoking weed.
According to Time magazine, most marijuana experts say that the number dates back to 1971, when a group of Marin County, CA teens known as the “Waldos” — Dave Reddix, Larry Schwartz, Steve Capper, Mark Gravitch and Jeffrey Noel — would meet at 4:20 p.m. every day after school to get high by the statue of the chemist Louis Pasteur. They would say the number 420 to each other, which was a coded way of saying marijuana.
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Dave’s brother, Patrick Reddix, was working with Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh. They toured together, spreading the term among band members, other bands, friends and groupies, until it gained worldwide recognition.
In the 70s, April 20 was a date only celebrated among smokers and outcasts. Smoking marijuana was associated with hippies and those who protested against the war effort and large corporations in America. Nowadays, its reception has shifted so much that the date is treated as a holiday, especially by canna-businesses which offer discounts on their products.
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Capper said it wasn’t until 1997 that he realized how big the term 420 had gotten until Schwartz told him. “Larry called me up one day. He said, ‘Steve, it’s everywhere. There are T-shirts and hats. Everybody is capitalizing on it.’ ”
Sadly, and in an unbelievable twist, Pat Reddix passed away in December 2018.
“I was there, and Pat died at exactly 4:20 p.m.,” his brother Dave said. “It’s on his death certificate. What are the chances of that?”