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The 420 Story


Quite often we’re asked about the meaning behind the neon signs hanging in the window of some of our offices “It’s 420 Somewhere.” Or we’re told our decorative clocks permanently set to 4:20 are broken. 420 is on everything from socks, ornaments, gift wrap, T-shirts, shoes, jewelry, and much more! What does 420 stand for, and how did it all get started?


           Let’s set the stage: It’s 1971 in Marin County, California, and a group of five students dubbed themselves “the Waldos,” because they hung out at the wall in their school’s courtyard near the Louis Pasteur statue on the campus of San Rafael High School. This group of kids regularly met at the statue at 4:20, giving them time to shower after sports practice before getting together to smoke a few joints. These kids decided they’d take their friend’s 1966 Chevy Impala, all the Acapulco Gold and Panama Red they could get, and start going on “safaris” - adventures that only required two rules: you have to go somewhere new, and everyone in on it had to be high. Their first adventure was a trip to what is now Silicon Valley, searching for what Rolling Stone had reported as a “holographic city” in the midst of California.


These “safaris” quickly took a turn to the interesting side, and history was made. The Waldos - Steve, Dave, Jeffrey, Larry, and Mark - were given a map by a friend (and future brother-in-law) of one of the members, and they were off on a good old-fashioned treasure hunt. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? A whole crop of cannabis waiting to be harvested.  Started and then abandoned by three Coast Guard members who were lighthouse keepers at the Point Reyes Lighthouse in the Point Reyes Forest just up the coast. The Waldos would remind each other in the hallways of their school of “420 Louis,” in reference to the statue, which was later shortened to “420.” They spent many weeks trying to find these fields, but according to member Dave Reddix, they were smoking before and during the trips, passing joints back and forth, “and maybe that’s why we didn’t find it.”


A few years later, in 1975, the Grateful Dead took a hiatus from touring. During that time Dave’s brother was friends with the Grateful Dead’s bassist, Phil Lesh, and was offered to manage some of his bands. Dave was hired on as a roadie, and they regularly smoked with Lesh, David Crosby, and Terry Haggerty. Another Waldo, Mark, had a father handling the real estate for the Grateful Dead, and that led to both housesitting and backstage passes for the teens. During these smoking sessions, they’d say “420” to one another to catch their attention when passing joints.


It could have easily died out, but instead we skip a couple decades forward to the early 90’s, when High Times published an article after receiving a flyer at a Grateful Dead concert in Oakland, California, that said, “Meet us to celebrate 420 on April 20th on top of Mount Tamalpais on Bolinas Ridge.” That also prompted them to bring 420 into the mainstream, referencing it in articles and eventually leading to the Cannabis Action Network holding their first annual 4/20 Ball in 1995, and the opportunity for the Waldos to present their favorite band, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, a Lifetime Achievement Award at the High Times Doobie Awards in 2002. 420 is now prevalent throughout media, with subtle nods in movies like Pulp Fiction and Lost in Translation (both of which had the clocks set to 4:20) leading to more obvious and celebrated references in movies, music, and even an addition to the Oxford English Dictionary.  



  • used to refer to marijuana or to the act of smoking marijuana.
    "a 420-friendly hotel"

    • April 20th (4/20), considered as an occasion for smoking or celebrating the smoking of marijuana.
      "thousands of marijuana smokers converged on Hippie Hill for the annual 420 celebration"


420 is now so popular some hotels have removed 420 from room doors and replaced them with spray on numbers, or creatively painted “419+1” due to the theft of 420 room plaques. Now when you see 420 T Shirts, socks, keychains, coffee mugs, hats, license plates, or hear someone saying it’s 420, (even when it’s not 4:20) you’ll have a better understanding of what they’re talking about! 

In honor of 4/20 both New and Recertifying patients scheduled on Saturday 4/20/24 will receive the following for FREE:

A treat bag stuffed with a wide assortment of snacks, including Chips, Cookies, Candy, Crackers, Granola Bars, and more! Plus Ice Cold Refreshments!