Or a different question: What relation does a french microbiologist from the 19th century have to cannabis? 🤷♀️
The search begins
San Rafael, California, Fall 1971 - Five members of the group “The Waldos” gathered at their local high school in front of a statue of Louis Pasteur after class.Their mission: A treasure hunt.
One of the Waldos obtained a treasure map from a lighthouse keeper of the US Coast Guard. The treasure: An abandoned cannabis plantation. The plantation was becoming a burden for the lighthouse keeper; after all, he was a civil servant, and in 1971 even California wasn´t as tolerant towards cannabis as it used to be. However, since the plantation had already been set up and the lighthouse keeper didn’t just want to let it waste away, he created the map.
And so the Waldos eagerly began their treasure hunt, unfortunately without any luck. However, this didn’t make them give up. They decided to continue their hunt by meeting up again the next day. And the next. And again the next… still without any luck. This didn´t lead them to lose hope though, instead, it became a daily ritual for the Waldos.
Keep in mind, in 1971 you couldn´t simply send a quick WhatsApp text to arrange a spontaneous meetup. There needed to be an agreed-upon place and time. The place: The statue of Louis Pasteur. The time: Twenty past four. Or how you´d typically say it: 4:20- four twenty.
How their code was born in school
As a way to remind each other of their afternoon meetup without the teachers catching any wind of it, they’d call out a simple “4:20 Louis!” which was then, presumably to save time, shortened to “420!”.
After countless failed attempts to find the plantation and with the cannabis season slowly coming to an end, the Waldos had to face the sad truth that they weren’t going to find the plantation in time. Their code “420” still stuck around and although it was no longer used as a code for their treasure hunt, it became a secret code for cannabis consumers. For the Waldos anyway.
Sharing their code on tour
Soon after, one of the Waldos, Dave Reddix, went on tour as a roadie with the band The Grateful Dead, that was widely known in the drug and cannabis subculture throughout the USA. Reddix introduced the custom of consuming cannabis at 4:20 to the band. This was in the afternoon of course and seen as a socially acceptable time. It was practically the cannabis equivalent of “no beer before four”.
The Grateful Dead isn’t only known for their incredible improvisations with which they can turn 3-minute songs into a 30-minute musical experience. They had (and still have) an extremely large and loyal following whose members are referred to as “Deadheads”. Interestingly enough, the term Deadhead originated from San Rafael as well.
The lighthouse keeper´s legacy
What began as a secret code became a common slang word among Deadheads as a result of the band using it with their fans on their many tours. The code “420” had even established itself as a part of international cannabis lingo.
If you write “420” in date format, it refers to April 20th which, thanks to the treasure hunt of 5 teenagers for an abandoned cannabis plantation, has become a new international cannabis holiday. It´s now even celebrated, at times more or less depending on legislation, outside of North America.
Even though the lighthouse keeper´s legacy was never found, he had left the international cannabis culture a much more valuable and lasting treasure by creating his treasure map: 420!
On this note: Happy 420! 🥳
Ps: Although this story may sound like a modern fairytale, many parts of it have been proven to be historically accurate. Many articles of the “San Francisco Chronicle” are dedicated to this story, as seen here, or here. Are you interested in reading more on CBD, hemp, and everything around it? In our Hemp-Wiki we explain what the difference between CBD and THC is or go into detail about the current CBD legislation in Germany.