Happy Weed Day: Why is 4/20 ‘Weed Day’ and how did it start?

Image shoes kush-in close up photography.— Pexels
Image shoes kush-in close up photography.— Pexels

For several decades, April 20, also known as 4/20 or “Weed Day”, has been a day of celebration for marijuana users throughout the United States. 

Enthusiasts come together in states where recreational marijuana is legal and even in states where it is not, to celebrate this day. Some of them rally for the decriminalisation and legalisation of the plant. 

Each year, people gather at various locations across the country, including Washington Square Park in Manhattan and Golden Gate Park’s “Hippie Hill” in California.

Why is April 20 Weed Day?

The origins of the term 420 and how it became associated with marijuana use are shrouded in mystery, and several theories abound. One of the most popular theories is that 420 was the police code for marijuana, but this has never been substantiated. It was also suggested that it was the penal code in California for marijuana possession or use. Some attribute the origin of 420 to Bob Dylan’s song “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” as 12 multiplied by 35 equals 420, and the lyric “Everybody must get stoned.”

Despite the multiple theories, nobody seems to know for certain how April 20 became Weed Day, but the most credible theory dates back to the 1970s in California. 

According to Steven Hager, a former editor for the weed-centric outlet High Times, April 20 began with five teenagers from San Rafael High School who would meet every day at 4:20 pm. They waited until most of the school’s extracurricular activities had ended for the day, near the campus’ statue of chemist Louis Pasteur to smoke weed. Steve Capper, Jeffrey Noel, Dave Reddix, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich were the students who became known as “The Waldos” because they met near a wall near the statue and used the code 4/20 to indicate that it was time to light up.

Reddix explained that they were tired of the Friday night football scene with all the jocks and would instead sit under the stands smoking a doobie, wondering what they were doing there. 

Reddix’s brother helped him get a job as a roadie for Grateful Dead’s bassist Phil Lesh, and the band has been credited with helping popularize the term 420. Flyers were distributed by Deadheads — Grateful Dead enthusiasts — in Oakland, California, in 1990, inviting people to “smoke 420” on April 20 at 4:20 p.m. A year later, former High Times reporter Steve Bloom printed a copy of the 420 flyers in the magazine after receiving it. In 1998, High Times credited “The Waldos” with the term “420.”

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