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420 History: The Cannabis Holiday Explained

Cannabis plants

Happy 420! April 20th is the day for cannabis enthusiasts everywhere, but it wasn’t always a national holiday. It transpired from humble, California origins - but today you’ll find cannabis companies offering 420 specials, and even non-cannabis companies sometimes take part in the fun! It’s often referred to as the “Black Friday of weed.”

But, do you know the history of 420? There are a lot of theories, including but not limited to the following:

  • In H.P. Lovecraft and Kenneth J. Sterling’s In The Walls Of Eryx, Lovecraft mentions “curious mirage-plants” with “shaggy stalk(s) and spiky leaves” that the narrator encounters sending him into a psychedelic time warp. The trippy episode ends at 4:20.
  • Bob Dylan sings “Everybody must get stoned” in his tune, “Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35.” 12 and 35 multiplied does equal 420, but we’re chalking it up to mere coincidence.
  • A code for marijuana on police scanners or a penal code referring to cannabis. Both are just incorrect!

All of these theories are plausible (okay, not all of them), but only one has verified evidence and that’s the story of The Waldos. 

In 1971, a boy named Steve Capper was given a treasure map by a friend who had a brother in the U.S. Coast Guard. The treasure map was created by a service man named Waldo, the brother of Steve’s friend, and he was (illegally, at that time) growing a cannabis plant at Point Reyes, a seashore in California. 

He thought he was going to get caught so he gave it to his brother, who gave it to Steve, to go dig up and keep for himself. Steve employed the help of his friends Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich, who were all students at San Rafael High School in Marin County, California. 

Waldos Mark Gravitch (right front), Larry Schwartz (middle) and Dave Reddix at Dominican College in San Rafael, getting high and playing Frisbee, circa 1972-73.

L-R: Waldos Dave Reddix, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravitch at Dominican College in San Rafael circa 1972-73

Meet the 420 Waldos

The boys met every day after school at 4:20pm to smoke a little weed before jumping in Steve’s 1966 blue Chevy Impala and riding out to Point Reyes to search for the weed. Calling themselves “The Waldos” (Thanks, Coast Guard Waldo!), the boys chose 4:20 PM to meet because their parents were still working and they were alone. 

The Waldos met in front of a statue of French biologist Louis Pasteur, and in the school hallways they’d pass each other and say, “420 Louie” to remind each other of the plan. Eventually, they dropped Louie and just said “420”. 

Unfortunately for them, The Waldos never found the cannabis planted at Point Reyes, but that’s okay, because they created an entire cannabis movement! Because of their eclectic story, cannabis enthusiasts have gone the extra mile and declared April 20th The National Day of Weed. To the boys though, it’s just another one of their adventures. 

“We went all kinds of places in Marin,” Steve told Marin Magazine, a local publication covering that area. “We’d go to the Golden Gate Bridge, get high, and jump in the painters’ nets.” 

Dave added, “We’d climb out on the girders. Underneath, there was a net in case someone was painting and they fell off. We’d go out there, get stoned, and start jumping on those nets like they were trampolines.” 

The Waldos coined these adventures as “Waldo Safaris” and there were plenty of adventures -- including tracking down scientists who were building a holographic city. Yup, for real. They successfully found the scientists, who proceeded to tell them to come back any time and visit after they made them all laugh. Only 420 would have such a unique backstory! 

The Waldos weren’t intending to create this milestone moment in the history of cannabis, and many of them attempt to separate their personal lives from The 420 Waldos. However, they do want proper credit for coining the term and the misinformation surrounding the holiday to stop.

On their official website, you’ll find a tab called “documented proof” that features letters written to each other in the 70s and other memorabilia that proves they are the real deal! 


SPLIFF Film Festival 2021 Trailer from Index Media on Vimeo.

Ways to Toast to 420 

We’ve covered the history of 420, so let’s talk about what it means today! We mentioned it’s the “Black Friday” of cannabis, but it also means plenty of fun 420-friendly events. The most famous event might be 420 on Hippie Hill! 

Hippie Hill is a park, specifically Robin Williams Meadow, in San Francisco. Pre-COVID, 420 partakers would gather in the park, lovingly known as Hippie Hill, and smoke a lot of weed. Bands would play live music, there were food trucks galore, and everyone had a great time. Unfortunately, Hippie Hill was canceled last year and this year, so hopefully 2022 will welcome back the beloved tradition. 

An unexpected perk of the past year? Virtual events. Sure, we miss in-person gatherings, but virtual events are great because they are flexible. On a road trip? Join in through the phone. Feeling sick but don’t want to miss the good time? Dial in from your bed and flip your camera off when you sneeze. Have to leave the party early, but don’t want to drive all that way just to stay for a few minutes? No worries - the celebration is online, so leave any time! Here are some of the best online cannabis events to join this year:

  • Cannabis Cooking Class  - Hosted by Soul Fresh Wellness on April 17th. Learn to cook alongside the Soul Fresh crew as you learn the science behind cooking with cannabis and other fun tips! 
  • 2021 SPLIFF Film Festival - Hosted by SPLIFF and featuring filmmakers, artists, and animators sharing their stoned creations. It’s a days-long event, join starting April 16th until Saturday, April 24th
  • 420 Virtual Puff N Paint - Hosted by 3rd World Art Studios on April 21st. Learn some techniques with Dan of 3rd World Studios to make great art - and puff a little along the way!          
Toast Ode to Babel cocktails

Ways to Toast to 420 

A Toast to 420! Here are a few ideas to celebrate with us: 

  1. Make CBD chocolates
    You can do this 420 recipe alone or with your quarantine crew! Our recipe for almond butter cups is fun, easy, and of course, delicious. Bonus: It’s paleo, keto, and vegan-friendly.   
  2. Smoke around the fire
    Gather around a fire pit, and share a pack of Toast Reserve or Emerald with your pod.

  3. Learn to meditate with CBD.
    CBD can balance mood and retrain our bodies on how to calm temporary anxiety. When you utilize CBD during meditation, you’re essentially reassociating calmness with the present. Learn how with our Beginner’s Guide to Meditation.      

  4. Make a CBD smoothie.
    We love this recipe for a Spring-Time Lemon CBD Smoothie, because it’s simple, refreshing, and a great way to bring CBD into your daily ritual.

  5. Toast with cocktails. Obviously.
    Enjoy a Toast Slice to elevate the celebration, or drop your preferred dose of Toast Full Spectrum Extract in your favorite drink for the relaxing effects. 

From all of us at Toast, we wish you a happy and safe 420! Whether you’re looking to light up or lighten up, we welcome you to celebrate with us. Tag us on Instagram at @WeToast. We’d love to see how you’re celebrating our favorite day of the year!