April 20th, commonly referred to as just ‘420’, is right around the corner and stoners worldwide are prepping. For some that means stocking up on their favorite products while dispensaries and online retailers are offering some of their best deals of the year. For others it may consist of making weed-centric plans with friends. Some might plan on going to a legalization rally or protest. Regardless of how one plans on celebrating, the main takeaway here is that people across the globe will be observing this holiday.
While not officially a holiday, 420 has become one of the most universally celebrated days – in the sense that it’s not specific to any region, ethnic group, gender, or religion/spirituality. Anyone who uses or even just appreciates cannabis is welcome to join in the festivities! It’s one of the most inclusive ‘holidays’ that exists. The purpose of the holiday is pretty cut and dry: to commemorate weed in all its natural, healing, high-inducing, stonerific glory. It’s origins, however, remain a bit hazier. There are so many different 4/20 stories out there and if you’ve been a cannabis user for a while you’ve likely heard quite a few…
Some say it’s the number of active chemicals in weed (this is somewhat factual, as there are roughly 400 compounds in the cannabis plant, but the term ‘420’ predates this information). Others believe it’s a code to signify cannabis possession by law enforcement (completely inaccurate, no such code exists). A handful of people think it has to with an older California senate bill called SB 420 (this does exist, but again, 420 came before the bill). And many others believe it has to do with one or more celebrities, typically named are Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, and Bob Dylan (also incorrect).
The real story of how 420 came to be is a bit more mundane, but actually pretty cool when you consider that it all started as an inside joke between friends. Who is this infamous group of forward-thinking youth, you may be asking? Well, this is where things get a bit confusing. Two rival groups, the Waldos and the Bebes, claim to have coined the term; and this seemingly small disagreement has spawned into a decades-long dispute (one that is still ongoing might I add) over the true history behind 420.
We cover everything under the sun in the world of weed, and you can follow along by signing up to the THC Weekly Newsletter, for a daily dose of industry news. Plus, get direct access to deals on products like vapes, edibles, and other paraphernalia, and on cannabinoid compounds, as well. Check out our 420 deals to get the most out of April 20th, and to ensure a blissful and sky-high holiday!
The Well-Known Waldos Story
The most popular 420 origin story is that of the Waldos. The first thing to keep in mind about this story, is that even though we write it as a calendar date, ‘4/20’, and it is now celebrated on that day, it really should be displayed as a time, ‘4:20’. Now, this particular narrative follows a group of five teens from San Rafael, California, who were appropriately nicknamed “the Waldos” due to their preferred hang out spot – a wall outside of their high school. In the fall of 1971, the Waldos heard about a coast guard member who planted some cannabis but was no longer able to tend to it.
Every day after school, they would pile into a car, smoke some buds, and search the Point Reyes Forest for this legendary crop (they called this their daily “safari”. Their daily meeting time? 4:20 p.m. They never did find the elusive crop, but they did however start a trend at their high school. The phrase “420” quickly spread around the student body because it allowed teens to talk about cannabis openly while their parents and teachers were none the wiser.
Trends spread around high schools all the time, but how did the 420 skyrocket to an internationally known phrase? That took some star power, for which we have the Grateful Dead to thank. The Waldos had connections with the Grateful Dead. Mark Gravitch’s father managed the band’s real estate and Dave Reddix’s older brother was good friends with Phil Lesh, the Dead’s bassist.
At a Dead concert during Christmas weekend 1990, then High Times reporter Steve Bloom was handed a flyer that read, “We are going to meet at 4:20 on 4/20 for 420-ing in Marin County at the Bolinas Ridge sunset spot on Mt. Tamalpais.” Once High Times printed the story, accompanied by a photo of the flyer, it was game over and 420 spread like wildfire. The official story connecting the Waldos to Grateful Dead to 420 came out in 1998.
The Alternative Bebes’ 420 Tale
As far as 420 stories go, the Waldos one is the most well-known and widely accepted. But over the years, another group of friends has come out to oppose the Waldos’ account and offer up their own version of events. According to members of the group, the Bebes, who were led by Brad Bann (AKA the Bebe), are the ones who invented the term.
Their explanation is quite simple: One day after school, they got together to smoke bongs and record music, the time was exactly 4:20pm. During the session, Bann began to “channel his inner Abraham Lincoln” by singing “four score and twenty years ago”, referencing the time they had met to smoke and because he was known for his deep, booming, Lincoln-like voice. As per the Bebes, this occurred in 1970, which is before the Waldos’ story.
Interestingly, the Bebes and Waldos knew each other rather well. Bebe Brad Bann and Waldo Steve Capper were friends for many years before drifting apart in their teens. Additionally, there were a handful of ‘neutral party’ floater friends who hung out with both groups, so terminology could have easily spread between cliques. “We had what we called charter Waldos — sort of alternate Waldos, so if one Waldo was gone they could fill in,” said Capper. “They had the same sense of humor; they knew all our gags, all our impersonations, all our little catchphrases.”
Evidence to the contrary
Over the last couple of decades there has been an ongoing feud between these two groups going on in the press. Granted, it’s not something that’s grabbing headlines all year, but every 4/20, it comes up. In the early 2000s, the Bebes first came out with their counter to the Waldos’ story. But, anyone can say whatever they want about anything, that doesn’t necessarily make it true, so the fact that Bebes publicly disputed the Waldos’ story is not enough to confirm validity.
However, Bebes members are adamant that they are the ones who devised ‘420’ as a catchphrase, and adding insult to injury, Brad Bann also claims to be the first one to give the Waldos their infamous nickname (ouch). Obviously, the Waldos have not been happy about this, and the debate rages on. Either way, the term gained momentum throughout the 80s and 90s.
Remember that High Times flyer from 1990 that I mentioned earlier? Well, the following year, High Times published a follow up article that included an image of that flyer and some information about how ‘420’ came to be… but they got the story wrong. The High Times story claims that the Waldos got it from a police code for smoking pot, but we know that nothing like that ever existed.
This actually makes a point for the Bebes, assuming they actually started it and the Waldos never really knew the real story behind it, then just gave a fake story about the police code before realizing that could be factchecked and changing their story to something more casual. Either that, or the High Times writer/editor who worked on the story got their information mixed up.
Conversely, the Waldos claim to have “multiple pieces of physical evidence / proof” that they were the first to use the ‘420’ in relation to cannabis. On their website, the report having documents and 420-embellished items that are “preserved in a high-security bank safety deposit vault, they have been and will continue to be available for inspection/documentation by Official Press.”
While everyone credits the Waldo’s connections with the Grateful Dead for popularizing 420, the stories diverge from there. The Waldos did come out with a story first, and they also have more physical, documented evidence of their use of the word dating back to the early 1970s, but again, none of that is concrete evidence that they invented the word, only that they were quick to utilize it conversationally and adorn all their gear with the term. There are some solid considerations that make the Bebes’ story plausible as well.
If you’re dying to learn more about this topic, each group has a documentary in the works. Release dates TBA, but it will be interesting to see if the full truth behind the origins of 420 ever comes to light. In the meantime, click here to learn more about 4/20 and check out some great product deals!
Thanks for stopping by out little site! Welcome to CBDtesters.co/Cannadelics.com, your premiere internet spot for comprehensive independent news covering the cannabis and psychedelics industries. Join us frequently to keep up-to-date on the quickly-moving universe of cannabis and psychedelics, and check out The THC Weekly Newsletter, for a daily dose of industry news.