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The true origin of 420

The true origin of 420

As a stoner, who uses the term ’420’ almost daily, I get the question ‘What’s 420?’ a lot. There are a few crazy myths as to what 420 means, but today I will tell you exactly where this term originated (with proof) so the next time someone asks you what it is, you’ll have a great story to tell them. Personally I relish in the opportunity to tell people this beautiful tale. 

Let me introduce you all to ‘The Waldo’s’. Mark Gravich, Jeff Noel, Steve Capper, Dave Reddix and Larry Schwartz.


The Waldo’s are a group of five friends who grew up together in Marin County, California. They originated the term 420 in 1971 when attending San Rafael High School. This group of guys are great friends who love smoking pot together, even to this day. Do not be fooled, the Waldo’s are not your typical stoners, in fact, they would hate to be categorised as that. During their highschool years these boys were smart, creative, motivated, athletic and famously hilarious. They would travel to scenic places in California and San Francisco to toke up and perform comedy bits and impressions for each other. They nicknamed themselves the Waldo's, going as far as attaching 'Waldo' to the front of each of their names, as they used to sit against the same wall everyday at school to hang out.


420 Origin Story


The boys were given a treasure map to a patch of cannabis by their friends Bill and Pat McNulty. The McNulty boys were given the map by their brother in law Gary Newman (pictured below with the Waldo's) who was a coastguard stationed at the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Gary planted the cannabis patch on federal land near the lighthouse, and became very paranoid about getting busted so he created a treasure map and passed it onto the McNulty brothers, who we now know then gave to Waldo Steve.


The Waldo’s wanted to find these plants so they set out every afternoon, after their after-school activities to find the treasure. They would meet in the middle of the school grounds at the Louis Pasteur statue at... you guessed it… 4:20pm! They would often toke up at their meeting point at 4:20pm, then venture out to find the lost cannabis treasure.


As they passed each other in the school hallways they would say “420 Louis” to confirm that the search was on after school. The Waldo’s searched for months to no avail, they finally gave up on the search and dropped the “Louis” and kept 4:20 as their secret code for pot. 

Now you might ask how the term got so popularised, to this day even celebrating the 20th of April each year globally as the stoner holiday. Waldo Dave became a roadie for the Band ‘Grateful Dead’ and called for 4:20 to be the time that everyone smoked weed. It is believed that the band adopted and popularised the term to what it is today.




The Waldo’s actually have their own website, in hopes to preserve the true story, where they tell their stories and personal jokes along with detailed authenticated documents proving they were the first to make ‘420’.

One piece of proof can be found on the back of an envelope sent in 1974 between Waldo Steve and Waldo Dave where ‘420’ is written on the outside of the envelope letter. Also within the letter you can see "P.S. a little 420 enclosed for your weekend".


Another piece of evidence is inside another letter sent in the early 70’s between the Waldo boys and their friend Patty, where they discuss the making of their flag which has a weed leaf, ‘420’ and the word ‘eyot’ which the boys also coined. The Waldo’s often said “Eyot” to unsuspecting strangers for the purpose of secretly laughing at their puzzled expressions in response to it.

So next time someone asks what 4:20 is or where it came from you can give the Waldo’s the credit. 



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2 Comment

  • Thanks so much, Plantcrone!
    If you enjoyed this blog post, I would highly recommend our blog post on Marijuana in Australian History :)

    Thanks again,

  • A good documented version of this now widely spread and misunderstood story!


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