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The Real Story Behind 4/20: Can you celebrate the THC-Free Way?

The Real Story Behind 4/20: Can you celebrate the THC-Free Way?

Long celebrated as the Cannabis National Holiday, there’s a lot of speculation around the origins of 4/20. Some of the more popular theories are that “420” is the police code for marijuana smoking in progress, the time of Jerry Garcia’s death, or the number of molecules in marijuana.

All plausible theories, however, not the real story. The true origin of celebrated 4/20 actually dates back to the ’70s and high school students from San Rafael high school. The story is a bit of a journey, but a good one – so let’s get to it.

Meet the Waldos

There’s a wall on the San Rafael High School campus where 5 friends used to meet every day after school to hang out, get high and talk trash. They were the “the Waldos” (named for hanging out at the wall) and known for their love of weed, stand-up comedy, and the Marx Brothers.

In 1971, a friend gave the Waldos a treasure map that ‘allegedly’ led to a pot patch growth on nearby Point Reyes Peninsula. So, the guys decided to adventure there after school and pick the patch. Score! Since school let out at 3:10, and several of them had after-school activities, they made a plan to meet at 4:20 pm by a statue on campus near the parking lot.

Codeword 4:20

The first day’s outing was a bust – no pot patch. But the Waldos didn’t give up, and they continued to meet at 4:20 pm every day after school by Louis Pasteur’s statue near the parking lot entrance. They would high five in the halls and remind each other of the plans by saying, “4:20 Louis” – their codeword for the adventures. They later simplified it to just “420” when they realized it was also perfect for talking about smoking pot in front of their parents. It stuck, and it was their thing.

A couple of decades later, at a Grateful Dead show at Oakland Coliseum, Steve Bloom, news editor at High Times, was handed a flyer encouraging folks to smoke together at 4:20 pm on 4/20.


Steve brought the flyer back to the High Times offices in New York, and everyone got a kick out of it. So, he published the flyer in the May 1991 issue, which was the first time 4/20 made national news.

From there, the term continued to grow in popularity until it evolved into an international symbol for smoking weed – recognized by smokers and non-smokers alike.

The Dead Connection

But how does this flyer tie back to a group of stoner kids from San Rafael? Well, as it turns out, the Waldos had several ties to the Dead community back then. One of the Waldos’ fathers took care of the Dead’s real estate, and another Waldos’ older brother, Patrick, managed a Dead sideband and was good friends with Dead bassist Phil Lesh. The Waldos spent a lot of time in the Dead ecosystem – at shows, backstage, and sitting in on rehearsals. Naturally, they got high and freely used “420” to talk about it.

Somehow, between the ‘70s and ‘90s, the term caught on and stuck. All other theories, like the police code, have been debunked over the years. And even though the Waldos themselves can’t definitively state that 420 sprung from their highschool hijinks – it’s the most plausible theory out there.

Celebrate the THC-Free Way

Whatever the origins, the date has long represented an annual gathering for cannabis enthusiasts – one day and one time each year when people can collectively celebrate their love of the plant.

And if you’re looking for a THC-free way to celebrate 4/20 – or simply to unwind and relaxing – think about a hemp alternative. Redwood Reserves high potency smokable hemp products contain pure, Full Spectrum CBD Oil for a THC-free experience that’s highly flavorful and provides an immediate and lasting sense of happiness, calm, and relaxing.

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