April 20 is coming and people around the world will celebrate "Weed Day." But where did this come from? Shutterstock/ Peter Kim

It all began in the early 1970’s with a group of five teenagers from San Rafael High School in northern California who had heard about an abandoned cannabis crop around the area. The young boys referred to themselves as “the Waldos” mostly because their typical hangout spot was a wall outside the school. However, once they learned about the abandoned crop, they decided to change their meeting location to the Louis Pasteur statue on school grounds. They would gather there to begin their search for the cannabis lot at 4:20 p.m. every day.

The Waldos referred to this initial plan with the phrase "4:20 Louis," but after multiple attempts to find the crop failed, the phrase evolved in form and use. They shortened only to “4:20” and they used it to refer to pot-smoking in general. But, how did that phrase become so popular? This is attributed to Steven Hager, editor of High Times magazine, who was responsible of bringing the Waldos’ story to a national audience. Hager also attributed the early spread of the phrase to Grateful Dead followers, who were also linked to the city of San Rafael.

According to Huffington Post in an article from 2010, they got a hold of the original Waldos, who explained how the term “4:20” spread throughout the Grateful Dead followers. One of the Waldo’s dad took care took care of the band’s real estate. Another Waldo’s older brother, Patrick, managed a Dead sideband and was a good friend of bassist Phil Lesh. Patrick told Huff Post that he smoked with Lesh on numerous occasions and he thinks he must have used the term around him.

The Waldos also had open access to Grateful Dead parties and rehearsals, and were always backstage or running around them. One of the Waldos said, "There was a place called Winterland and we'd always be backstage running around or onstage and, of course, we're using those phrases. When somebody passes a joint or something, 'Hey, 420.' So it started spreading through that community." But it was really Hager who made it mainstream. "I started incorporating it into everything we were doing," he told the Huffington Post.

"I started doing all these big events - the World Hemp Expo Extravaganza and the Cannabis Cup - and we built everything around 420. The publicity that High Times gave it is what made it an international thing. Until then, it was relatively confined to the Grateful Dead subculture. But we blew it out into an international phenomenon." Four-twenty evolved from being just the “time to get high” to a counterculture holiday on April 20, where people gather to celebrate and consume cannabis. The day has come to be known as “Marijuana Appreciation Day,” or simply “Weed Day.” Some events celebrated on this day have a political nature to them, advocating for the legalization of weed.

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