What is 4/20? How April 20 became a holiday for weed-lovers everywhere (2024)

Anna KaufmanUSA TODAY

Kief. Herb. Mary Jane. ZaZa. Would a flower by any other name smell as sweet? On 4/20 it just might. Each year April 20 rolls around and weed smokers pass the pipe, reveling in their love for the magic herb.

Buthow did a random day in late April become an international observance for marijuana enthusiasts? Whether you celebrate or not, you may be interested inthe smoke-hazed lore behind the holiday.

The most popularly believed story involves a gaggle of cannabis-loving California teens, a wall at a local high school campus, and a famous rock band.

What does 4/20 mean?

April 20, or 4/20, is a holiday celebrated by many weed smokers both in the United States and around the globe.

It's a day for smokers to not only celebrate their love of the intoxicating flower but to rally for legalization, particularly in the U.S. where marijuana is notfederally legal.

Though there is no officially agreed-upon story for the holiday's origins, plenty of popular theories exist — perhaps the most famous tying the holiday's date to a cohort of teenagers in California.

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What is the meaning behind 420?

What better place to celebrate weed than California, a state long knownas a smoker's paradise (google: counter-culture, Haight-Ashbury)

Popular lore ties the birth of "4/20"to a group of high schoolers attending Northern California'sSan Rafael High School in the early 1970s. The cohort which dubbed itself the "Waldos"used to gather at 4:20 pm to toke up.

“We weren’t stupid stoners,” SteveCapper, 68, an original Waldo said, pointing to a certificate for exceptional achievement and citizenship he received in school. His point was that the Waldos chose 4:20 as a meeting time because it accommodated after-school activities like sports and studying.

That timestamp soon became a short-hand for the act of smoking weed, and eventually spread beyond the Golden State's borders. The messenger? None other than The Grateful Dead.

Dave Reddix, a member of the "Waldos," told TIME Magazine in 2017 that the band helped popularize the term during his tenure working as a roadie forbassist Phil Lesh. TIME reports thatduring a December show in 1990someDeadheads in Oakland distributed flyers inviting people to smoke “420” at 4:20 p.m. on April 20.

One of the recipients of the flyer was Steven Bloom, a reporter at The High Times. The following yearthepopular cannabis publication printed that flyer and a new observance was born.

Why is 4/20 associated with weed?

The Waldos themselves didn't begin to notice the holiday's far reach until the late 1990s, Reddix tells me.They began to see it spray-painted on benches and signs and decided they needed to set the record straight on the real story behind it.

Now celebrities, cannabis shops, and novice smokers alike celebrate 4/20.

Though other theories exist about the origins of 4/20, including references to a California police codeand a Bob Dylan song, the Waldos have remained adamant that they are the true architects of the holiday. Reddix and Capper both shrugged off competing theories, saying no other group has presented evidence that was verified by a legitimate source. "Every year more and more people start claiming 4/20 as their own," Reddix joked.

Theirdocumented proof, which is compiled on a website, is now kept in a bank safe in San Francisco, they said. The address is not so coincidentally located at 420 Montgomery Street.

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Happy 4/20!

The Waldos still gather each year to celebrate 4/20 together.

Last year, Reddix and Capper met fellow members of their high school toke club at the Lagunitas Brewery in Northern California which has a signaturebeer named after them: The Waldos' Special Ale. They describe its flavor profile, unsurprisingly, as "dank."

"We didn't know at the time we were creating history but now we find it rather amusing that this has taken off," Reddix said.

Just Curious for more? We've got you covered.

USA TODAY is exploring the questions you and others ask every day. From "What is delta-8 THC?" to "How long does weed stay in your system?" to "What is hangxiety?" – we're striving to find answers to the most common questions you ask every day. Head to our Just Curious section to see what else we can answer for you.

What is 4/20? How April 20 became a holiday for weed-lovers everywhere (2024)


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