The Origin Story of 4:20: A Tale of Friendship, Cannabis, and Counterculture


In the realm of counterculture, there exists a sacred time known as 4:20. It’s a moment when like-minded individuals gather, share their love for cannabis, and embark on a journey of camaraderie. But how did this special time come to be? To uncover the origin story of 4:20, we must delve into the history of a group of high school friends from San Rafael, California, in the early 1970s.

Meet the Waldos: Steve, Dave, Mark, and Patrick. These adventurous teenagers, fueled by curiosity and a rebellious spirit, found themselves united by their love for cannabis. They were true pioneers, venturing into uncharted territories of exploration and discovering the hidden depths of their own consciousness through the herb.

One fateful autumn day in 1971, the Waldos received a mysterious treasure map. It was said to lead to a hidden patch of cannabis plants abandoned by a Coast Guard service member in the Point Reyes Peninsula. Intrigued and driven by their passion for adventure, they decided to meet at a designated spot after school to embark on their quest.

The chosen meeting time? 4:20 PM.

With excitement and anticipation, the Waldos would gather at the statue of Louis Pasteur on their high school campus at San Rafael High. This statue, an iconic symbol of their shared space, became the meeting point for their clandestine escapades. As the clock struck 4:20, they would utter the now-legendary phrase, “4:20 Louis,” to signify the start of their mission.

The Waldos’ journeys took them deep into the lush, sprawling hills of Point Reyes. Along the way, they would regale each other with stories and laughter, sharing their hopes, dreams, and a deep sense of connection. The bond they forged during these adventures would become the foundation of their lifelong friendship.

As the years passed, the term “4:20” took on a life of its own within the Waldos’ circle. It became their secret code, a symbol of their shared experiences and a reminder of the joyful moments they had spent exploring the realms of consciousness. Whenever someone wanted to gather and partake in the sacred herb, they would whisper the phrase “420 Louis” to initiate the rendezvous.

The Waldos’ term slowly spread beyond their immediate circle, seeping into the counterculture of the ’70s. The phrase found resonance with others who shared their passion for cannabis, and it began to take on a broader meaning. It became a symbol of unity, a call to gather, and a celebration of the freedom to explore one’s consciousness.

Through the years, numerous anecdotes and songs have woven themselves into the fabric of the 4:20 mythos. One such tale involves the Grateful Dead, a legendary band known for their ties to cannabis culture. The Waldos had a close connection to the band, as their friend Mark’s older brother managed the Dead’s real estate. As a result, they often found themselves immersed in the world of the Dead, attending rehearsals and enjoying the music that became the soundtrack of their lives.

The Grateful Dead embraced the spirit of 4:20, incorporating it into their concerts and gatherings. They recognized the significance of the Waldos’ contribution to the cannabis culture and helped spread the 4:20 phenomenon far and wide through their loyal fan base.


Over time, the Waldos’ secret code transcended its origins, spreading globally and becoming a cherished symbol of cannabis culture. April 20th, the calendar date associated with 4:20, transformed into a day of celebration, activism, and camaraderie for cannabis enthusiasts worldwide.

As the years have gone by, the Waldos themselves have stepped into the spotlight, sharing their story with the world. They have become ambassadors of the counterculture movement, reminding us of the power of friendship, exploration, and the freedom to embrace alternative ways of thinking.

Today, 4:20 stands as a testament to the spirit of unity, adventure, and rebellion. It is a reminder that beneath the surface of society’s norms, there is a vibrant world waiting to be explored and celebrated.

So, when the clock strikes 4:20, remember the Waldos, their secret code, and the stories they inspire. In that moment, join hands with fellow enthusiasts, embrace the magic of the herb, and celebrate the spirit of exploration that lives on within us all. As the legendary Bob Marley once said, “When you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself.” And at 4:20, we come together to embrace that revelation and to create a world where freedom and connection flourish.

In the end, the origin of 4:20 is not merely a story of a time and place; it is a testament to the power of friendship, the spirit of adventure, and the enduring legacy of counterculture. It serves as a reminder that sometimes, in the pursuit of the extraordinary, all you need is a shared passion, a secret code, and the courage to embark on an unforgettable journey.

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