4/20 Saw ‘Full On’ Marijuana Marketing
Friday was April 20, or 4/20, the hipsters code for marijuana’s high holiday, a homage to the enduring appeal and universal slang for ‘smoking rope’.
Festivities went on worldwide, culminating with a synchronized smoke at 4:20p where ever the clock struck the time
The history of 4/20
How the marijuana-loving world came to mark the occasion is tracked back to 5 Northern California baby boomer men now in their 60’s. About 50 years ago as high school students at a suburban San Francisco high school they started it.
“We thought it was a joke then,” said David Reddix, a filmmaker. “We still do.”
Reddix and his 4 ‘buds’: Steve Capper, Larry Schwartz, Jeff Noel and Mark Gravich were a clique that hung out at a particular wall between classes at San Rafael High School. They dubbed themselves “The Waldos,” a term minted by comedian Buddy Hackett to describe odd people.
One fall afternoon in Y 1971 a non-Waldo classmate came to the wall with an intriguing tale and a crudely drawn map.
The map showed the location of a marijuana garden in the forest of nearby Point Reyes National Seashore. The classmate said the patch belonged to his brother-in-law, a Coast Guard reservist stationed at Point Reyes.
The classmate explained his brother-in-law, paranoid of exposure and washing out of the reserves, was renouncing ownership of The Garden. He handed Steve Capper the map and said The Waldos were welcome to the marijuana.
The 5 ‘Buds’ made plans to find the weed after school and decided to meet in front of the school’s statue of Louis Pasteur at 4:20p.
They jumped into Steve Capper’s 1966 Chevy Impala, turned up the Grateful Dead, passed around joints as they drove the 45 mins to the coast.
The 5 ‘Buds” now laugh about falling out of a marijuana smoke-filled car when they arrived at their destination.
“It was straight of a Cheech & Chong movie,” Larry Schwartz said.
They did not find The Garden that day, and vowed to keep searching, they never found it.
They would pass in the halls and whisper “420 Louis” to each other if a new attempt was planned, indicating they should meet at 4:20p. at the Pasteur statue.
“420 Louis” became a code for “let’s get high at the statue after school.” Soon after, it was shortened to simply 420 and meant “let’s get high anywhere.”
The 420 code was confined to The Waldos’ social circle until they began hanging out backstage at Grateful Dead concerts. David Reddix’s older brother was friends with band member Phil Lesh and that led to backstage passes and smoking sessions with the roadies and other crew members, who picked up the code.
The number really took off in the late 1980’s when flyers were circulated at Dead concerts proclaiming 420 to be the password of stoner culture.
The flyers went on to explain that 420 was California police code for marijuana smoking in progress. It’s not, but that and other origin stories continue to circulate to the point that Messers Capper and Reddix are committed to preserving as much proof as they can that they are the originators.
They keep those records in a rented safe deposit box in a San Francisco bank where they store documentation, including postmarked letters they exchanged in the mid-1970’s discussing 420. The San Francisco bank’s address is 420 Montgomery Street.
Millions of dollars have been made over the years exploiting the number, from T-shirts and hats to cannabis businesses with 420 in their names.
Hotels and tour companies advertise themselves as “420 friendly” and dating sites contain listings for people “420 compatible.”
Though dozens of 420-related trademarks have been issued to various companies, The Waldos hold just 1, and they are now starting to exploit it.
The 5 Waldos recently struck their 1st business deal with a cannabis business.
They are endorsing an Oakland company’s vaping pen, which was released Friday at 4:20p and they plan to donate proceeds to the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit group that lobbies for marijuana legalization.
Have a terrific weekend