The History of 420 in 3 Acts

Waldos on the wall.

ACT ONE
You can trace a line from Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady to Ken Kesey and Ken Babbs to Steve and Dave, who entered San Rafael High School in the late sixties. They were rugged individualists uninspired by the social scene, which centered on athletics and the school’s top jocks, so they decided to create their own fun by embarking on a quest for adventure. The first of these was a visit to a Bay Area research lab developing the very first holographs. Soon, Jeff, Larry and Mark joined the safaris, as these adventures became known.

Every safari started with a sacramental hit of cannabis, followed by the cranking of the tunes, either in the 1966 4-door Chevy Impala with the killer Craig 8-track stereo system, or in Steve’s room, or in one of other sacred spots they shared herb, as getting high was illegal and couldn’t be done in public or around parents. One of their favorite spots was underneath the statue of Louis Pasteur by Benny Bufano, which overlooked the school parking lot. Sacred hymns provided by New Riders of the Purple Sage, Allman Brothers, Poco, Commander Cody, Beatles, The Moonlighters were then employed to lift the vibration higher.

Waldos at the statue of Louis Pasteur.

This crew gravitated to a wall inside the courtyard of San Rafael High, where they’d meet before class and during lunch break to make withering comments about everything around them, and this is where they obtained their name: The Waldos, as well as where they honed their savage wit. You couldn’t smoke pot around school unless it was a one-hitter and done extremely carefully, and even then you risked suspension and your parent’s wrath.

In the fall of 1971 Steve was given a treasure map to an abandoned patch of cannabis on Point Reyes that had been planted by a member of the Coast Guard too scared to return. He wanted some fellow stoners to have the patch, and everybody at San Rafael knew the Waldos were frequent stoners.

“Surely, this is the ultimate safari,” thought Steve. “No more adventurous nor noble quest could be devised by the mind of man.” The Waldos prophetically all agreed to meet at 4:20 PM at the Louis Pasteur Statue to get high, and drive out to Point Reyes to search for the secret patch of weed.  From then on, whenever the Waldos passed each other in the halls, they spontaneously erupted in a salute with the words, “Four Twenty Louie!” Little did they know how far this ritual would eventually travel, although “Louie” got lost along the way.

For the next ten years, the Waldos went on the most amazing safaris and had the most magical adventures, although they sadly never found that patch. But they always sponsored a big pot party on April 20th, where a ceremonial toke would take place at 4:20 PM. Eventually they started getting married, having families and picking up the sacred pipe less frequently. However, they kept up the safaris.

But as soon as the Waldo’s retired from staging 420 ceremonies, the younger classmen of San Rafael picked up on the magic of numerology and began using the code as a way to evade detection, and some of them started a ritual of congregating on a ridge of Mount Tamalpias with a sunset view of the Pacific on April 20th in order to get high at exactly 4:20 PM as a way to honor the spirit of cannabis. This ritual started with only a few souls, but soon grew to dozens. And that’s when someone got the idea of making a flyer inviting stoners from all over the Bay Area to the ceremony. Nobody outside Marin even knew that 420 signified pot. But even those gathered at the top of Mt. Tam didn’t have any idea how the code had started. They thought it had something to do with the police.

ACT TWO
I’m often knee-deep before I realize what I stepped into, and that’s how it was with the Cannabis Cup. The idea came to me on the plane, while flying back from the Netherlands after interviewing the founder of the first marijuana seed company, Nevil Shoemakers. The night before, Dave Watson had regaled me with tales of California harvest festivals before C.A.M.P. helicopters forced that scene underground.

Soon, I was back in the Netherlands, organizing the first Cannabis Cup, with a photographer and grow expert. Three seed companies entered, and one of them didn’t even cure their entries but plucked them fresh off the vine.

But when I returned home after that first event, I couldn’t shake a feeling of responsibility. My event demanded a ceremonial framework respecting the true spirit of cannabis and its historical importance and influence.  And that’s how I ended up buying a paperback version of the Rig Veda.

Imagine my surprise when I came across the description of the primary sacrament shared during all ceremonies, a drink called Soma:
“The blind see, the lame walk… he clothes the naked. Soma is a sage and seer inspired by poetry …King of the healing plants.”

I knew Soma was supposed to be a mushroom, something accepted as gospel by the academic community, but in my heart, I instantly realized this had to be a description of cannabis, and there had to be some incredible cover-up going on that dwarfed the cover-up Jack Herer was pushing about the industrial uses and environmental benefits of hemp.

I stepped out of my office to smoke a joint and reflect on these matters, something I had been doing in my office, but had recently departed, as I had moved to a former warehouse in the back of the building, something necessitated by a crackdown on smoking. But the crackdown had just been extended to the warehouse as well, so I sought refuge in the stairwell.

Steve Bloom, the recently appointed news editor was there, along with some hippie dude I didn’t know, and he proceeded to pull out a stash of whippets and he began inhaling them in rapid succession. Bloom asked when he was going to share, and he said, “Sorry, I only have my dose and nothing more.”

I fired my joint, while Bloom showed me a flyer he’d been handed while attending a recent Grateful Dead show in Oakland. “Check this out,” he said. “It’s really silly.”

Pythagoreans greet the sunrise.

I don’t have immense satori moments often, but I’d been time traveling through the Vedas for hours and still had a foot in distant past, so when I saw that crude flyer asking people to come to the sunset-view ridge of Mt. Tam at 4:20 PM on April 20th, it assumed Biblical proportions in my mind, and I expressed these feelings instantly, because this was a sign, and something that could be employed to give meaning to my Cannabis Cup ceremony and also help make marijuana legal. But for those not into numerology or the study of secret societies, this is just silliness with no meaning. Some people “got” 420 and employed the magic to enhance their cannabis experience and help legitimize pot in ceremony, while for others, it remained a joke and nothing more.

I told Bloom I intended to use the code as part of my effort to build a case for spiritual rights to use cannabis under the Constitution. “This ceremony manifested spontaneously, and is evidence of the power of cannabis to create ceremony and culture,” I said. “We’re going to make this a big part of the Cannabis Cup and the Freedom Fighters.”

Later on, I was crushed to discover Bloom had run a joke item about the flyer, and failed to mention my pledge to deploy the code. No matter, I was soon on the road going to hundreds of college campuses in a debate titled Heads versus Feds against the former head of the DEA in New York. And at every event I asked the students to have a peace ceremony at 4:20 on April 20th. I also told them to be moderate in the use at such a young age, reminding them “the less you do, the higher you get.”

Certainly Chef RA, Jack Herer, Rodger Belknap, Thom Harris, and Linda Noel “got” 420. They were the shock troops in the hemp legalization movement, who helped me found the Freedom Fighters, the first national hemp legalization group. For many years we drove to rallies in a Psychedelic Bus (a new one each year as they were always breaking down). We hosted free campgrounds, with free kitchens, and published a free newsletter. Back then, the rallies were all held at precisely high noon, a trend that would continue for well over a decade. But the Freedom Fighters always held council at 4:20 PM, passed a feather and plotted how to best legalize in our lifetime. Just as every year, one of the Freedom Fighters was selected by open council to attend the Cannabis Cup as a celebrity judge.

Debby Goldsberry became the most dedicated member of that original crew, and quickly broke off to create her own organization, CAN. The half dozen rallies we attended were not enough to keep her occupied, as she created her own tour that hit almost every college town in the Midwest, while we concentrated on Ann Arbor, Madison, Boston, and the Rainbow Family Gatherings. At every stop along the road, she handed out copies of that original 420 flyer, something I’d encouraged. However, the flyer was treated as a joke item, and did not resonate on the level of what I was manifesting.

I hadn’t been to any Cups since the first one. But in 1993, I held the first 420 council at a Cannabis Cup. In truth, it was a clumsy ceremony, as no one but me had any idea what 420 represented, including Jack Herer. Some people will claim 420 was already widespread within the Grateful Dead community in the 1980s, but that is not true. It was known to teenagers who lived in Marin County in the later part of the decade.

The following year, however, at the 7th Cup, my 420 ceremony blossomed and became epic and stayed that way for the next 15 years or so. Most of the chiefs of cannabis you’ll find in Amsterdam today attended that first big 420 ceremony and spoke from their hearts. Eagle Bill was a major force elevating those ceremonies and it could not have happened like it did without him. I ran into Bill on my way to open the Pax Party House on opening day, and noticed he carried a hand-carved staff. I asked if he would like to be the ceremonial high priest and use his staff in place of a feather. The impact of this request on Eagle Bill was profound. To say Eagle Bill “got” 420 would be a vast understatement, as he rapidly elevated to become the primary guiding spirit of the event.

I was arranging everything around the afternoon 420, but the crew got so devoted they began doing 420 AM ceremonies, and these rapidly became the most legendary parties at the Cup and everyone collected photos of themselves under the clock at exactly 4:20.

In 1995, Vancouver got credit for staging the first April 20th 420 ceremony outside Marin County. Marc Emery, Dana Rozek, Cindy Lassu and Ian Hunter had a hand in manifesting this event, although Marc was initially opposed to the concept. It continues today as the longest-running April 20th ceremony in North America. A few years later Debby Goldsberry staged the first major 420 event in the Bay Area in Golden Gate Park, although it turned into a one-off. However, the already established free 420 gathering on hippie hill continues to this day. The Mt. Tam sunset ridge ceremony was shut down in 1990.

ACT THREE
Even though High Times became the magazine success story of the 90’s and the Freedom Fighters spearheaded the return of the rallies, re-igniting the sleeping marijuana movement, success only seemed to bring problems for me, as I was soon forced to disband the Freedom Fighters and there were constant pressures to shut down the Cup as well, or at least remove my supervision. I moved home to concentrate on events and how to document them for posterity as I felt there was something important in these 420 ceremonies I was manifesting. At the time, I was primarily interested in building up WHEE! as the premiere cannabis event in North America.

I’d been trying for years to get Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters over to the Cannabis Cup, and had lured Mountain Girl when she was poor and adventurous, but at one point realized if I wanted to do a ceremony with Kesey, it was going to have to happen in his backyard, and that’s what happened. The first year (1997) we had over 300 vendors and 20,000 attendees.

Of course the Pranksters “got” 420 immediately, and the reason the code suddenly began skyrocketing through the Grateful Dead scene was threefold: first, Rainbow Family and Dead Family were basically the same thing and the Freedom Fighters and 420 had acquired a huge presence at Rainbow; second, Jack Herer and Chef RA “got” 420 and they became influential figures and spread the code; and three, and probably most important, the Pranksters “got” 420, and began actively pushing it. And Kesey was the most influential person in the Dead scene after Jerry Garcia.

One day, I got an email from Mike, the travel agent of the Cannabis Cup, who had been made producer of the event with me directing the ceremonies. He forwarded a message from Steve in San Francisco who claimed to have started 420 with his friends in 1971. The part that caught my attention was Steve wasn’t seeking money, he just wanted 420Tours.com to know the real story. He was writing to the Cannabis Cup travel package website because Mike had put up a forum for posting 420 Cannabis Cup stories, and this website drew the attention of the Waldos, who had been following the spread of 420 across America with much mirth and amazement.

By 2002, headshops in the Bay Area were stuffed with 420-t-shirts, buttons, hats, posters, and various other memorabilia. The code has become a well-known secret inside cannabis culture and been written about in High Times and celebrated as the central ceremony in the Cannabis Cup and WHEE!, the two biggest and most influential cannabis-themed events at the time (if you don’t count Kumba Mela). Still, however, outside the Bay Area, the code remained an enigma, even to most stoners.

I ended up flying out to San Francisco and meeting the Waldos and holding epic ceremonies with them for days, all of which were captured on video, as were my 420 ceremonies with the Pranksters and the elders of the Rainbow Family. In fact, whenever I get together with Pranksters, Waldos or Rainbow Elders, the same magic improvisational energy always emerges, as well as an overwhelming desire to have fun. I never doubted the Waldo’s story, and read the truth in their hearts before I examined their documents. But the powers-that-be at High Times never trusted me, and the publisher spread the story I was suppressing competing tales on the origins of 420 because the Waldos were my friends, implying it all a massive hoodwink on my part. And that’s the way this story appears on Wikipedia today.

I also began a college lecture tour in 1995, debating Curtis Sliwa for five years, and then the former head of the New York DEA for additional 14, and “Heads versus Feds” traveled to over 300 colleges and universities over 19 years and I end each debate with a plea for the creation of a local student-run legalization group, and urge the students to hold annual events on April 20th, and have local bands play to raise money for the chapter. That line about April 20th often gets a laugh from the audience, and about half the time, I’m able to get volunteers to start a sign-up sheet for a chapter of NORML for the first five years, before I switched to advocating for SSDP. At many debates the list of prospective members reaches several dozen before I depart the lecture hall, and some of these chapters actually get off the ground. Enough for SSDP to follow the tour remotely as it moves around the country, and that’s probably why Allen St. Pierre of NORML said recently: “Without Hager, I don’t think there’s any way that this interesting numerology that has crept deep into American culture and commerce would have happened.”

One of the earliest schools we traveled to for the Heads versus Feds debate was Boulder, Colorado, and that school soon started a 420 ceremony that got so big the University had to shut down the entire school on April 20th just to try and stop it. And I think that’s one reason why Denver got the center of energy of 420. Colorado was always the most vocally pro-pot state I visited.

I’ve long supported the view 420 should be used to help ritualize and legitimize cannabis as a sacrament, which will also strengthen the case for religious use. I’m not in favor of students doing breakfast dabs and going off to take their calculus exam, and I realize some get attracted to intoxication too early in life, and it holds them back, but on the other hand, I don’t believe anyone should go to jail, lose a student loan, or lose child custody over cannabis. So I suggest using 4:20 PM as a guide for an appropriate hour for the adult population to hold a cannabis ceremony, although this certainly doesn’t apply to those with a medical need. If you’re having a medical emergency, dabs away.

I’m hoping some who read this will “get” 420, and consider lifting the ceremony to a higher level, something more meaningful than just an excuse to get intoxicated. Only then will we be able to help forge a spiritual culture worthy of being handed down to future generations. If you want to treat this plant with respect, there is magic, but for some others who use it without wisdom or who become too attached too soon, it’s just an expensive habit. The other thing I’ve learned is that if you want to have a true counterculture ceremony, everyone must be invited, which means it has to be free and it can’t just be about getting high and nothing else.

A few years back, Bloom posted a story about how he “discovered 420” that failed to mention me at all. Bloom then told a Huff Post reporter that I had nothing to do with promoting 420, and that the code took off on its own, as if my events and ceremonies had zero to do with what happened.

(P.S. Please visit the Waldos at www.420waldos.com for more information on their history.)

The 44th Anniversary of 420

One fine fall day in 1971, an enlightened group of high school students at San Rafael High School in Marin County invented 420 as a secret code for cannabis. These Waldos were the younger generation of the Merry Pranksters, and I say that because both groups manifested an immense amount of creative energy, and continue to do so, and 420 was just a tiny piece of their contributions. Someday a book or film on the Waldos will be made that brings their story to life, because their 420 ceremony is now as big (or bigger) on the astral plain as the Prankster’s Magic Bus, which means 420 is approaching Wizard-of-Oz like significance in the universal group mind.
Like the Pranksters, the Waldos were sacred clowns who invested fun into all their adventures, and both used cannabis as a tool to elevate those energies. There are lots of lessons to be learned, but the most important is the necessity to band together in groups to pass through life’s ceremonies. Both the Waldos and Pranksters had strong harmony that keeps them unified to this day. You can’t manifest culture on your own, it has to be done in groups. You’ll also notice both the Pranksters and the Waldo’s have a zen-like appreciation for living-in-the-moment, and injecting theatricality into daily life to invest it with deeper meaning.
I organized 420 ceremonies for a long time before I discovered the Waldos, and when I finally flew out to meet them, I ended up jamming and playing with them for days. In fact, It was very similar to what happens when Ken Babbs and I get together. Someday I hope we can bring all my jam buddies across the world together for an epic 420 jam session.
This was actually my first year in a long time celebrating 420 in New York City. I took the afternoon boat ride around Manhattan with the original Cannabis Cup Band on Saturday. It was an epic experience and I got to share some thoughts about cannabis and spirituality, and we lit the seven candles. We could use a daily 420 boat ride like this because it sells out instantly.

How to plan a 420 ceremony

flashing 420Funny how many seem antagonistic to ceremonies. Just mention the word and a shiver goes up their back. They don’t realize ceremonies are a part of their life. Magic and spirituality move through us all naturally, and it doesn’t matter what names you put on anything, everything that ever happened keeps happening over and over.
Ceremonies have purposes, as well as flavors, and you can surf any vibration you want. Most family/tribal ceremonies unify the family/tribe and raise spirits. In order to unify, everyone needs to meditate on a single vibration for some brief instant. In a healthy family, the vibration being channeled is most often love.
Ever notice how the words “I love you” are magic? And how difficult to say sometimes. Sharing love energy is a ceremony. But then sharing anything is a ceremony.
Did you know there’s a love ceremony handed down for over 10,000 years intact, one that carries zero dogma and seeks only to harmonize participants? To outsiders, it may seem strange and can be mistaken for some cult brainwashing tool, but I guarantee this ancient ceremony works as well as any I’ve ever run across. It’s called the OM circle.
When your fight/flight response is activated, your emergency energy system turns on, and that jolt of energy has a tendency to overwhelm your brain, resulting in unproductive panic behavior. In that state you can easily freeze, or make the worst decision possible. Mental states are telepathic and create energy waves that can be felt and amplified, which is why panic spreads through a crowd fast as wind-whipped fire.
Fear is the basis of all mind control, and when a sorcerer wants to cast a spell, creating a panic and guiding that vibration wherever he wants is the primary device at his disposal. A scapegoat will be manufactured, tortured in public and then executed, followed by free grog for all. This is the way dark magic has worked for millennium.
Modern media has put most of the population on the edge of fight/flight mode through extreme levels of violence programming. And you won’t find much solace from this vibration in the conspiracy community, where fear levels are tweaked even higher.
Ten thousand years ago, the use of a certain sacramental plant spread like a wild-fire across most of the globe, from Europe to India to China. Enormous temples were built in the honor of this plant. But they weren’t just temples, they were the greatest hospitals and healing centers of their time. The plant was mixed with hot milk and spices and served to treat all afflictions, and became known as the king of healing plants, creator of magic and immortality, the tree of life.
It was the birth of a great age of enlightenment and coincided with the creation of most of our great religions. At the time this plant arrived, all things had long been considered to have spirit energies, and temples were built to countless gods and goddesses, but the message this plant conveyed concerned a Great Spirit that connected All Things.
But some dark sorcerer made the plant that caused the awakening a scapegoat. It was a clever campaign, executed in stages over a great expanse of time. The plant’s ceremonial powers virtually disappeared for 2,000 years, while the spiritual cultures it birthed were corrupted: false priests installed, new dogmas created. All trace of the plant was removed from all texts, a ploy not entirely successful, so deep was this plant woven into the fabric of these cultures.
In the 1880s, the plant’s magic ceremonial powers were rediscovered in New Orleans by African slaves owned by French planters who’d recently escaped the Haitian Revolution. These slaves invited Natives and others to join their ceremonies and soon created the most influential cultural movement of any time. However, no sooner did this movement appear, than governments moved to squash it, using persecution of the plant as the hammer to achieve their goal.
In the 1960s, surfers in California discovered the plant, and it led them on a sacred journey back to the plant’s original origins. When they returned from Afghanistan, they brought the ancient OM circle used at those original healing temples that once dotted the landscape from India to Iran. It is also the best method for dispelling panic and turning off fight/flight mode. And thus I believe it can also be an important tool to help deprogram the mind control memes being run today. It can also be an great tool to heal PTSD, which can create a near-constant fight/flight mode.
So when people ask me to prescribe 420 ceremonies, I must confess the OM is the greatest harmonization ritual I know, and I think it works through a triangulation of touch, sound and telepathy.
But wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing to see a hundred thousand voices erupt in an OM in Denver some day?



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Please Remember Rainbow Farm on April 20th

20010903-1-1On Labor Day week-end, 2001, President George Bush was attending a Teamster Rally in Michigan, the first President to attend such an event and in his usual jovial, cocky mood. He spoke about his wife being on the tour with him, which he thought was a great idea. It was typical G.W., all mom, flag and apple pie.
A photo from the rally hit the national news and was published everywhere, showing a Arab-looking child holding an American flag looking up at Bush. When I wrote about the importance of 420 being a ceremony for peace, Brian MucCullough reminded me to light some candles for Tom and Rollie of Rainbow Farm, who were just a few miles away that day about to be assassinated by American soldiers.
Tom and Rollie were gay biker dudes when I met them, and really into weed and throwing massive parties. They showed up at the Cannabis Cup and got pulled into the Temple Dragon Crew and fell in love with the ceremonies. It changed their lives.
Next thing I knew, they were throwing major ceremonies on their immense property in Michigan and invited me to come all-expenses-paid as a ceremonial chief and do 420 Peace Ceremonies, just like the one I’m doing in New Jersey at the Piscataway Hempfest on April 5th.
They called their property Rainbow Farm and licensed the WHEE! from High Times one year and spent a fortune bringing in the Cannabis Cup Band and other acts. But that was their last big event and it broke the bank. They could have survived, only their survival plan involved growing weed in the basement of their home, and once they got ratted-out and lost custody of Rollie’s son, they both went insane because they were loving and devoted parents who doted on the boy.
I was in Woodstock all that week and weekend, and didn’t return to New York City until the following Tuesday. I stopped off at B&H to pick up some video tape for my camera and the clerk told me: “A plane just flew into the World Trade Center.” Of course, I was thinking it must be some little prop plane. I continued to work on my motorcycle and by the time I got upstairs, the office was all abuzz and one tower was burning. I went to my office, where I discovered a string of voice messages on my phone.
I wish I’d taped those messages, because it’s the last time I heard Tom or Rollie’s voice. They called to let me know they were making a last stand, and wanted it to be a huge media event like Waco to draw attention to the War on Marijuana, and they needed me to be the spearhead in this attack. Only they didn’t have my Woodstock number, only my office. The messages got more and more frantic, and it pained me I was never able to contact them because I looked online and immediately discovered they were both already dead.
Tom was shot in the head by a sniper he never saw from a great distance. Rollie set the house on fire the next day and got shot in the neck as he exited the burning structure. Police or soldiers hand-cuffed him, then kicked the testicles out of his scrotum. When they delivered his corpse to the coroner, Rollie was still wearing their handcuffs.
tom.rollie2But I didn’t know any of this yet, only that they were both dead, and that I might have had a chance to talk them out of this crazy idea that something good might happen for the cannabis legalization movement from them committing suicide by cop.
So that’s why I’ll be lighting candles for Tom and Rollie of Rainbow Farm on April 20th and I hope you do to.
And when I went to the roof after listening to those heartbreaking messages, I watched a giant pillar of smoke blowing towards Brooklyn, and the main thought in my mind was how this was going to obliterate all news of Tom and Rollie’s death. And that’s exactly what happened. You think maybe it was planned that way? I mean, there was no reason for the police and soldiers to storm the property so quick. They could have negotiated for days with no violence, especially since they had the son as a bargaining tool, and both men were desperate to have some contact. But then, that would have allowed Tom and Rollie to turn it into a giant media event, which is what they were wanting and expecting.
It sure felt like there was some angry rush to execute these two loving men who just wanted to devote their lives to cannabis legalization because it was the right thing to do and they loved the spirit of the plant. And somehow they knew if they got it done quick, something really big was coming down the pike to wash it all away.


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Executions on the rise around the world….

Execution_of_Beatrice_Cenci_cph,3b31319Last year saw a 15% rise in executions around the world, although these stats from Amnesty International do not include China, which kills more people than all the other countries combined, so the figures are not really indicative of the total scope of violence.
Thirty-nine people were executed in the USA alone, putting us fifth on the list of barbaric states, of which only 22 are left on earth. All but one of our executions was done by lethal injection, which involves a sedative, followed by a paralyzing agent and then a heart stopper. (In recent history, the most executions occurred when Bill Clinton was President. Although remembered as somewhat compassionate, as Paul Krassner pointed out on Abakus the other day, Clinton stopped off to view the execution of a mentally damaged person on the way to his own own coronation, which is a really bizarre way to start a major ceremony unless, of course, it’s the dark side you’re worshipping.)
Here are the top five in order of kills: China (unknown); Iran (369); Iraq (160); Saudi Arabia (79); United States (39). Probably the most horrifying execution last year was Iranian peace poet Hashem Shaabani, hanged after five months of torture in which he was made to confess to many outrageous lies when his real crime was producing a peace festival and publishing poems critical of the ruling regime.
I believe 420 should be a ceremony of peace, simply because pot is the sacrament of peace culture and always has been, which is why you find spiritual cultures attached to it whenever you find the plant. If you make 420 about getting stoned, that leaves out all the people who no longer wish to get intoxicated, or who have a problem with intoxication. But if you make 420 about peace and respecting non-violence, then everyone is invited to attend.
JohnGriggsAltarViolence has been on the decline in most of the civilized world for centuries, but in the USA we have a problem with it. And we also have a lot of victims suffering from PTSD, most of whom do not have access to the best possible medicine for that disorder, which, of course, is cannabis. But when you hold ceremonies of peace, they help heal that PTSD. This is the spiritual-medicine connection Western science has been slow to pick up on. And you don’t have to be a victim of violent crime or even a soldier returning from the front to have PTSD. You can get it from playing violent video games and watching violent media content all day long for months, while popping ritalin and Prozac.
So when you think about your 420 ceremony this year, why not have a moment of silence for the thousands of people executed last year, and maybe put out a prayer the last 22 barbaric nations on earth will surrender the practice of murdering their own citizens? And maybe even another prayer that a future generation will emerge to turn against all the violence programming that’s been fed to our kids for the last fifty years.


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How to create a corruption-free religion

Before you can understand why 420 resonated so intensely for me on a spiritual plain, you have to understand the importance of Mount Tamalpais, the central peak of Marin County, which rises like Mount Fuji over sacred counterculture territory.

By 1966 San Francisco had become the new epicenter of the counterculture, mostly because of its association with On the Road. Hippies were birthed farther south, and emerged when surfers went to Mexico and scored the local marijuana. Small fortunes were made driving that seedy pot back to California before the Border Patrol caught on to the surfer-smuggler connection. And some good prices for Mexican could be found in the Bay Area. But after the Haight got destroyed by hard drugs and undercovers, the hippie tribe moved across the Golden Gate to seek refuge in San Rafael and Fairfax, in the shadows of Mt. Tam.

The idea of smoking pot came to many through On the Road, although an earlier book by Mezz Mezzrow (Really the Blues) is what enlightened Jack Kerouac to the sacraments of jazz. I didn’t discover Mezz’s groundbreaking book until around 1988, and even then didn’t fully comprehend it’s importance for another decade even though Flick Ford told me it was essential.

Once I began connecting with Mezz, however, my ideas about cannabis, spirituality and improvisation really began to blossom. See, all the dramas and traumas are acted out endlessly over the generations. The peace messiahs are always assassinated by the masters of war, just as many husbands and wives cheat on each other, although many show flashes of empathy in times of crisis, revealing their true inner nature. We go through the same dramas over and over and there’s been a huge, largely hidden dance going on around cannabis and religion for millennia.

In 1989, I bought a copy of the oldest living religious document, The Rig Veda, and was amazed to read what it had to say about Soma, the “king of the healing plants….the blind see, the lame walk….a sage and a seer inspired by poetry who heals all who are sick.” It was obvious this was a reference to cannabis.

Yet, according to our history books, Soma is supposed to be a mushroom? This was patently absurd and crazy. Mushrooms were forbidden by Vedic culture due to some emerging from cow manure. This attempt by Gordon Wasson of Harvard University to shoehorn mushrooms into Soma in place of cannabis was transparent to me and I wondered why no one else talked about it. I followed the cannabis and religion trail and soon discovered most religions began as cannabis cults. And everywhere you find cannabis, you’ll find spiritual communities using the plant as a sacrament.

So the world’s most enlightening and most beneficial plant has been declared illegal and billions spent over centuries trying to eradicate it off the face of the earth. And yet, a great cannabis awakening continues to blossom and the tipping point to legalization has already been reached.

So when Steve Bloom handed me that flyer to the third and final April 20th ceremony at the top of Mt. Tam to be held in 1990, a ritual scheduled for 4:20 PM, I did not think it ridiculous because I respect the connection between math and spirituality and I immediately sensed 420 was a sign the great wheel of life was turning, evidence a new form of cannabis spirituality was birthing. So I began organizing the first 420 ceremonies outside of Marin, while the rangers got wise to and shut down the annual Mt. Tam ceremony.

There is no dogma in my concept of religion. Do what you want as long as you don’t hurt anyone is the only rule. Put all the icons and avatars on your altar because merging  non-violent spiritual traditions helps disarm the sorcerers who manipulate religion to manifest war for profit.

Congo Square is the birthplace of blues, jazz, rock and hip hop, which led us out of the darkness, and the beauty of its improv culture is it reinvents itself every generation. When hippies appeared in Southern California, they quickly swept across America, but by the time hippie culture arrived in New York City, it looked much different from the California version. Yet, it was still an emanation of the same cultural roots. Punks were really a return to early hippies from outside California, who dressed in black leather, respected Black Panthers above all others, and unleashed anthems of three chord garage rock on a regular basis that became the musical foundation of Punk rock.

I plan to hand down the keys to enlightenment to anyone who cares, and that also involves an understanding of deep politics.

For example, Lincoln was killed by his own party, JFK was killed by the CIA, and the Pentagon planned 9/11 to sweep us into war.


New Children’s Prayer

newprayerfixHere’s a little tip on how to manifest peace magic. A lot of the best magic starts with the kids. A good example would be the children’s poem, “Hush-a-bye Baby,” which was a coded message for an uprising against King James I, who was suspected of smuggling a new born baby into his palace so he could pawn it off as his newly birthed offspring (when, in fact, he could bear no fruit). “The cradle will fall” was a reference to this child not being recognized as being of proper royal blood.

When I was a kid, we were taught a very strange poem to say every night before bed. In my usual fashion of improvisational ritual theater, I’ve changed the words a bit in order to place them more in line with my understanding of the sacred vibrations that run through all things.

I encourage parents to introduce this prayer to their kids as a means of dealing with some of the worst of the terror being manufactured today, some of which may even be created to condition us to accept a complete surrender of the Bill of Rights. I think this prayer is a positive step in the right direction and should be translated into every language and spread around the globe as quickly as possible.

Gunshots at Marijuana Rally

How sad the Denver rally was marred by violence and instead of a message of peace, the global news is now reporting: “gunshots at marijuana rally.” For me, this is a great tragedy.

Abby from Daily Beast called me on 4/19 and interviewed me for over an hour. She seemed fascinated by my history of spiritual use of cannabis, although I cautioned her there was a pretty intense filter in the national media on any of this info, and if she planned to write about it, be prepared for censorship from on high. She laughed off that idea, but strangely, her story has yet to appear.

The Denver rally began ten years ago, one of the first large mass April 20th events. Now we have so many. In 1990 I discovered an annual ritual was taking place near the top of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County. At the time, I was reading about Soma and had decided the story invented by Gordon Wasson that Soma was a mushroom was false, and Soma was actually cannabis, just like it was obvious to me cannabis was manifesting real ceremony and ritual in Marin, headquarters of the hippie counterculture after the Haight was over-run with undercovers, violence, hard drugs and nasty ops. From 1995 until 2003, the center of energy on spreading 420 ceremonies was the Cannabis Cup, especially the Temple Dragon Crew, who were so fanatical about honoring 420 they did it twice every day, at 4:20 PM and 4:20 AM. Having a picture taken at the Quentin hotel lobby under the clock at 4:20 AM was one of the biggest 420 ceremonies around for years before the rest of the world picked up on it.

That’s why I could never understand why Steve Bloom, who actually appears in some of those early 420 photos at the Quentin lobby, tells people High Times, the Cannabis Cup, and me in particular, “had nothing to do with spreading 420?” After having spent 30 years trying to get the spiritual rights issues around cannabis recognized, and then have that entire life’s campaign dismissed by someone who actually saw the thing assembled is saddening. But then Bloom voluntarily quit High Times when I was brought back the third time, just because he couldn’t work under me again. So I understand where the vibes are coming from.

Mike Edison on wikipedia claims I pushed the Waldo’s story and took 420 to “cult-like extremes.” That is really hilarious. Yes, I organized events around 420, and at 4:20 PM, I would sometimes ask the assembled multitudes to form a circle, hold hands, and OM for world peace. That’s a traditional hippie ceremony begun in North America by The Brotherhood of Eternal Love on the West Coast and Allen Ginsberg on the East Coast. I believed holding these ceremonies was proof of spiritual culture and could be used to bring a court case to the Supreme Court, which had always refused to hear the religious rights case on cannabis.

Like I was telling Abby from Daily Beast, I found out about marijuana by reading On the Road, and the key moment in that stream of consciousness is a spiritual moment in Mexico provided by a few hits of marijuana. That book sent my generation looking for marijuana because we wanted to have a spiritual moment like that, especially since all of us had recently lost our religions and needed something real and honest we could plug into.

During this crucial time, when the counterculture was re-discovering the sacrament of peace culture, what happens? A major op is launched by Gordon Wasson to declare the magic mushroom as the key to spirituality. And he heads off down to Mexico to take mushrooms with a shaman and it ends up on the cover of Life magazine. Suddenly, it’s all about mushrooms again. This is obviously the same op Wasson pulled on Soma. Could it be possible that when the Roman empire took control of Christianity, which up until then had been a poor people’s religion based on world peace, and when Constantine put that cross on his army’s shields, he also switched up the sacraments? The poor people got alcohol, while the priests got mushrooms maybe but the cannabis became strictly forbidden because cannabis manifests peace culture, and the Roman empire was never about peace.

After I attended my first Rainbow Gathering and stood in a circle OMing for peace with 15,000 people, my mind was blown and I realized if only we had more ceremonies like this, we might actually get some positive energy going in this direction. So I organized a lot of peace circles for the next 30 years and tried to teach the youth about hippie magic. But I live in New York City, where hippies are not really very popular, and the minute I started manifesting these ceremonies, I was branded “a cult leader” by people that wanted to take my job. Where is my army of zombie robots and why aren’t they carrying me around in a sedan chair feeding me grapes all day? In fact, I never tried to organize a cult or anything close and I have zero dogma to push, only a desire to spread peace energy to help heal all the hate, but of course, this is dangerous, or at least lame and stupid, eh?

The Real Story of 420

It’s always fun waiting to see how Steve Bloom is going to spin his annual 420 story. Bloom likes to take credit for “discovering” 420 because he published a flyer in 1990 in High Times. But there’s always this mysterious 5-year gap in Bloom’s accounts. I was investigating the history of Soma when Bloom showed up at the office with that flyer for a gathering on Mt. Tam on April 20th at 4:20 that he’d been handed at a Grateful Dead show in Oakland. Bloom laughed at how silly it seemed and published a small blip in the news section making fun of it.

I had a much different reaction. Channeling the Rig Veda, I instantly announced this gathering on Mt Tamalpais was proof of the spiritual powers of cannabis and its ability to manifest real ritual and ceremony. Not only that, I instantly made 4:20 pm a daily ritual for myself, and began re-tooling the Cannabis Cup and Whee! festivals around 4:20 as the central ceremony. I was trying to build a case for the religious use of cannabis and I wanted to videotape and document those ceremonies as proof of that connection. And I have all that documentation intact.

Now Bloom watched all this go down for years and never once got involved with these 420 rituals, just poo-poohed the whole thing like a big joke. He watched the Cannabis Cup spread 420 around the globe during this time and saw myself and Stephen Gaskin deliver many 420 sermons to the uneducated masses, waking them up to the power of peace. Today Boom will tell you 420 spread through the Grateful Dead scene, which is not true. It spread through the teenagers of Marin county, some of whom had gone across the bay to Oakland to recruit comrades for their annual mountain-top ceremony, an event that only lasted a few years before police presence shut it down.

When I investigated the Waldos, the true creators of the 420 code, I came back to announce they were the real deal, and, of course, Bloom went into high gear discounting that notion and acting like I was deluded. Finally, he did cave in and admit the Waldos created 420 a few years back, but then last year, he backtracked once again and claimed it was actually another person from their high school, a tall tale told by a prankster and backed by zero evidence, while the Waldos have maintained a large stack of verifiable documents, including post-marked letters? A few months ago, Bloom was positively crowing about how the Waldos were frauds and he had finally uncovered “the real story.”

So, at the start of 420 week, what does Bloom say now: “Thirty-two years after I stumbled onto the 420 phenomenon, I really could care less who started it. Better off left shrouded in mystery, it makes for a good stoner bedtime story.”

I’d say he’s backed off that lame story, but he’s still not close to the truth, because the Waldod’s did invent 420, a reality Bloom has always had a hard time swallowing, probably only because I was the first to assert it and that would somehow, in his mind, steal his 420 spotlight?

The real story about this year’s 420 is about the people who organized those original Mt. Tam ceremonies, because the Waldos had no hand in these. And wouldn’t you know, one of them happens to have become altar master of the Temple Dragon Crew. This shaman will be returning to Mount Tamalpais in one week bearing the seven sacred candles of peace, which will be lit at 4:20 PM as an OM circle forms.

The real story of 420 is not about who found the flyer, who invented it, or who gets credit for anything. The real story of 420 is that this is our peace culture and shared by all of us who want to walk a path of non-violence. Don’t be fooled into thinking marijuana is only about getting high and/or making money, although that is as far as many people get with the plant. No, there is something much stronger, much deeper, much more intense going on around cannabis because it is the true sacrament of peace culture and always has been. And peace culture is a much truer emanation of the universal energies than anything those black magician masters of war running the Federal Reserve can dream up.

EsP: Emergency System for Peace

You’ve probably heard of the EBS, the Emergency Broadcast System. They often interrupt your violence pornography-laded television content with a message they are expecting an apocalyptic event sometime soon. It’s all about amping up the fear vibes, which is what keeps the population docile while they orchestrate wars for profit behind the curtain.

But have you heard of the EsP? The Emergency System for Peace? Don’t be surprised if you see a blizzard of photos of seven rainbow colored candles symbolizing world peace and don’t be alarmed because it’s just the Temple Dragon Crew holding a test of the Emergence System for Peace.