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4:20 - A Time, A Tradition: Unveiling the Roots of Cannabis Culture's Iconic Number

The term "4:20" has become synonymous with cannabis culture, celebrated around the globe every April 20th as a time to partake in and advocate for marijuana. But how did this particular number come to hold such significance? The story of 4:20 is one of folklore, friendship, and the serendipitous nature of cultural phenomena.

The Waldos: The True Pioneers

The most credible origin story of 4:20 traces back to the early 1970s in San Rafael, California, where a group of high school students, known as "The Waldos," coined the term. The Waldos earned their nickname because they frequently hung out by a wall outside their school. The group embarked on a cannabis-related adventure after coming into possession of a hand-drawn map supposedly leading to an abandoned cannabis crop in the nearby Point Reyes Forest.

The Waldos agreed to meet at 4:20 p.m. by the Louis Pasteur statue on their high school campus to begin their search, using "420 Louie" as their initial code. Eventually, "420 Louie" was shortened to just "4:20," which became their shorthand for anything marijuana-related.

The Grateful Dead Connection

The story of 4:20 would likely have remained a local in-joke had it not been for The Waldos' connections to the Grateful Dead. With San Rafael as a backdrop and the band's rehearsal space and hangout spot, The Waldos had direct links to the Grateful Dead circle through family connections and friendships.

As The Waldos mingled with the Grateful Dead community, the term "4:20" began to spread beyond their immediate circle, embedding itself into the larger counter-culture lexicon. The Grateful Dead and their followers, known for their nomadic lifestyle following the band from show to show, played a significant role in disseminating the term nationally and globally.

4:20 and Cannabis Culture

Over the years, "4:20" has transcended its humble origins to become a global symbol of cannabis culture. April 20th (4/20 in U.S. date notation) has evolved into an unofficial holiday where enthusiasts gather to celebrate and consume cannabis, advocate for legalization, and enjoy the communal spirit of the cannabis community.

The term "4:20" also serves as a universal code among cannabis users, a nod to a shared understanding and a discreet way to discuss marijuana in less accepting environments.

The Legacy Continues

Today, the story of 4:20 is a testament to the unpredictable ways in which cultural symbols can emerge and spread. From a group of high school friends in California to a worldwide phenomenon, 4:20 has become emblematic of not just a time to partake in cannabis but also a moment to reflect on the strides made in cannabis advocacy and the ongoing journey towards legalization and acceptance.

As we celebrate 4:20 each year, it's a reminder of the grassroots origins of the cannabis movement and the power of community in shaping cultural narratives.


The history of 4:20 is more than just a tale of a time to light up; it's a story of how a simple code among friends can grow into a global symbol of unity, advocacy, and celebration within the cannabis community. As we observe 4:20, we acknowledge not only the joy and camaraderie cannabis brings but also the ongoing efforts for its acceptance and legalization worldwide.

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