The True Birth of 420

I guess Steve Bloom at Celebstoner is backing off last year’s claim the Waldos didn’t invent 420 and who cares who invented 420 anyway? …Well, I care.

But now he’s saying the Waldos didn’t create the ceremony on April 20th? According to him, that was first done many years later by other kids in Marin County, who remain nameless in his extremely limited history of the event.

Funny because Bloom was there at a seminal moment in 420 history, one he has never written about. When he handed me that crude flyer for a 420 ceremony at the top of Mt. Tam, obviously done by some high school kid, I’d just spent all day reading the Rig Veda and realized cannabis was Soma, the central sacrament of the ancient world. When I saw the flyer for the ceremony on Mt. Tam, it was one of the greatest satori moments of my life. You see, I knew Mt. Tam is Mt. Fuji for the Bay Area counterculture of the 1960s. For me, this had to be a sacred message, calling me back to my counterculture roots. And from that day on, I held a daily 420 ceremony in my office or wherever I was, and pursued 420 with a religious fervor that I’m sure Bloom and others found laughable, but for me, it was a way to respect the history of cannabis and spirituality. No one I knew had any concept of 420 at all, not even the most devoted Deadheads like Chef RA and Jack Herer, because they didn’t go to San Rafael High in Marin.

Meanwhile over the next quarter century, I’d visit around 350 colleges in my Heads versus Feds Debate versus Robert Stutman, former head of DEA in New York. At the high point of the debate I’d always challenge the students in the standing-room-only crowd to create a local ceremony every April 20th and use the ceremony to raise funds to build a legalization chapter on campus.

But that flyer handed out at that Dead show in Oakland Bloom found so funny also killed the ceremony at Mt. Tam, which was only three years old. I know because I’ve talked about this with Johnny Fullbuckmoon, son of John Griggs, the real hippie avatar of the 1960s. Johnny was involved with those ceremonies, and that flyer brought the heat down on their event, and park rangers and police conspired to shut it down from that day forth.

For many years after that, the only 420 ceremonies going on (outside Marin) were at the Freedom Fighter campground and rallies, the WHEE festivals, and the Cannabis Cups in Amsterdam. At the time, the Freedom Fighters were the largest and fastest growing legalization group with nearly 10,000 members. The Freedom Fighter of the Year was selected by open council at 4:20 PM in Ann Arbor every April (not on 420, but after the annual Hash Bash). The WHEE festival was the largest hempfest of its time, by the way, and drew 300 vendors and over 15,000 attendees. The first WHEE 420 shows featured Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. I don’t need to tell you about the global impact of the Cannabis Cup, since everyone concedes that’s where all the emerging technologies around cannabis emerged.

Within a few years, 420 was known globally, but only by the marijuana community. Then rallies began to appear on April 20th at 4:20 PM.

The Waldos did many ceremonies on April 20th at 4:20 in the 1970s, although they never attended one at the top of Mt. Tam in the late 1980s. They are the creators of 420 as a code for marijuana, but they are also the creators of the April 20th, 4:20 ceremony. The use of the 420 code was carried by the Grateful Dead vendors, who noticed anything with 420 was popular in Marin County, their winter home, but I doubt any of those items sold outside of Marin initially.

This is a public service notice in the history of providing an accurate account of the true history of 420, something currently clouded with muck.

4 Replies to “The True Birth of 420”

  1. you always seem to set aside,long before you got into the h t universe-a fellow known as tom,would slow down the office w/music at 4:20

    1. Wanda, I did the only feature documentary on Tom and spent years researching his life, and interviewed most of the major players in his life. No one every said this. Give me the name of one person at HT who will verify this statement.

  2. hey steven, for many years i was following your abacus blog from germany, and suddenly there is nothing left. the page is completely down .. no more information about sam aka dr watson and such a thing. What happened? have changed the times and circumstances with you and your country so dramatically? in the greatest hope that you are well, an old man and former subscription of ht 😉
    all the best to you! Dirk

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