Why April 20 Is The Holy Day And 420 The Holy Number For Marijuana Lovers

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Updated on 5 Sep, 2017 at 1:14 pm

It was the autumn of April 20, 1971. Five friends, all in their teens, gathered around the statue of Louis Pasteur at San Rafael High School in San Rafael, California, at 4:20 pm.

The place was their regular meeting point and the time was normally when they used to meet. The purpose of their regular meetings was to smoke marijuana. Since they were usually seen hanging around near walls, the group came to called ‘Waldos’.


Wikimedia Commons

On that day, however, the Waldos were meeting for a different purpose. They had come across a hand-drawn map of a marijuana crop somewhere at Point Reyes, north-west of San Francisco, and they wanted to get their hands on that.

So at 4:20 pm they embarked on a ‘treasure hunt’ which would eventually fail but create a counterculture of sorts.


Revelers at a 420 celebration in Denver, Colorado. AP/Brennan Linsley

Though they failed in their quest, the Waldos started calling themselves ‘420’. Everyone associated with them, started addressing the group with the same term.

That term became popular when fans of a local rock band called Grateful Dead started using the term. The band was the first to mention how the term came to be and its association with the Waldos.


Kelsee Becker/LA Weekly

And then, in 1990, High Times, a leading publication on marijuana, wrote articles on the Waldos taking the group and the term to cult status.

Ever since, to marijuana smokers in the United States and elsewhere the term 420 has become a holy symbol.

Today, April 20 is celebrated by pot lovers as a festival day. On this day they do what they love doing – smoke marijuana.


Two posters marking the 420 celebrations. The one on the right is from Belfast in Ireland.

And such is the craze with 420 in the US that pot lovers repeatedly stole the 420-mile marker on Interstate-70 highway in Colorado forcing officials to replace it with a 419.99-mile sign.