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Creating a Culture: How the Original 4/20 Shapes Our Community Today

Legends in the Making

It’s one of those rare legends of origin that’s actually true. During the fall of 1971, a group of kids at San Rafael High School (nicknamed “The Waldos” for their habit of hanging out near a wall on campus) heard a rumor about a cannabis crop growing in the Point Reyes Forest, abandoned by its Coast Guard cultivator. A good story, a little high school boredom, the thrill of the hunt, and–maybe–a treasure map that made its way to the teens from the grower himself, was all it took to motivate the five to regularly meet at a Louis Pasteur statue on campus after their extracurriculars wrapped up–right around 4:20pm. They’d pile into a 1966 Chevy Impala, light up a joint, and head to the coastal forest in search of the elusive plants. “420 Louis” was the code spoken in the hallways on designated “safari” days. Over time, it simply became “420,” and then, eventually, 4/20.

There are many reasons to love this story, beyond its charm. Of course there’s the reassurance that the 4/20 holiday–which has become so meaningful to the cannabis community–was not inspired by the law enforcement radio code designating marijuana smoking in progress. Nor does the date celebrate Hitler’s birthday or the number of active chemicals in cannabis. (For the record, that number is 483.)

Enhancing the Human Experience

But the truly remarkable part of this story is what it tells us about the human experience. Sure, 4/20 was shorthand, a wink, a language for the initiated. The original IYKYK, if you will. But it was more than that. At its core, 4/20 was created by a group of individuals who felt the value of a ritual and a community in their lives. They needed a way to refer to the experience so they could return to it again and again. They needed a way to protect it. They needed a way to carry it forward. And that’s why they needed to name it.

As for the community that embraced that ritual and the name it was given? Well, it just grew and grew.

Where's Waldo Now?

In the half century since The Waldos’ contribution, the shorthand has remained invaluable, often taking on larger cultural meaning and causes. It spread through the early 1970s music scene, carried by The Waldos’ personal connection to members of The Grateful Dead. It grew to be part of the counterculture movement organized to protest systemic issues of racism and injustice and the US involvement in foreign war. Today, the annual day of celebration inspired by The Waldos continues to be an opportunity for advocacy and advancement. And certainly there’s more work to be done.

The Legacy Lives On

For our part, today, this work looks like making investments in safety, fostering creative innovation with our producer partners, and supporting advocacy. On 4/20 and every day worthy of celebration, we encourage our fellow community members to ask, What does this work look like for me today?

As we learned from The Waldos, this is how we truly celebrate and preserve a culture: by recognizing it, acknowledging its value in our lives, protecting it, advocating for it as we move it forward. 

Celebrate Community

During the month of April, True Terpenes recognizes those who work to elevate the human experience through the advocacy, creative innovation, scientific advancement, and appreciation of cannabis. In honor of the original community creators who gave us the name 4/20, we’re celebrating with a Throwback Sale, featuring strains popular during the time of the original 4/20 as well as strains popular during the second wave of cannabis hybridization–when many of us had our own “Waldos” moment.

We encourage our fellow community members to show how you celebrate. Share your creative terpene flavor combinations, innovative applications, and community engagement, and tag #TrueTerpenes. Happy 4/20, everyone!


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