Meet the Former Stoners Who Accidentally Started 420

April 19, 2019

By Max Godnick

Millions of people across the world will celebrate 4/20 on Saturday, but only five can say they lay claim to the origins of the term.

The Waldos are a group of friends who met at San Rafael High School in northern California's Marin County in the early 1970's. They say it was their inside joke that evolved into the ubiquitous call sign for cannabis culture known today.

"It was a private joke amongst ourselves and somehow it turned into a worldwide phenomenon," said Waldos founding member Dave Reddix in an interview with Cheddar.

"It's kind of mind boggling, but it's still a private joke to us."

As the story goes, the Waldos were tasked with finding a secret patch of marijuana plants by a friend's older brother serving in the Coast Guard in 1971. Every day, the friends would meet outside their school at 4:20 pm near a statue of French chemist Louis Pasteur, where they would get high and set off to look for the hidden "treasure."

"By about the fourth week, we just dropped 'Louis," said fellow Waldo Steve Capper.

"We'd see each other in the halls and we'd go '420' and we'd smile. So 'Louis' was dropped, sorry Louis."

Nearly 50 years later, Capper and Reddix embrace the unofficial national holiday their inside joke has become -- but they recognize that the spirit of the day has strayed somewhat from its humble origins.

"For some people they consider 420 the Black Friday for cannabis and maybe some people like that because they get better deals," said Capper.

"The spirit of 420 was friendship, fun, and kindness," added Reddix.

Today, the Waldos admit they stay on the sidelines when it comes to the debate and politics surrounding cannabis legalization. But, the group is cashing in on the explosion in popularity of cannabis.

The friends lend their name to The Waldos Special Ale made by Lagunitas Brewery in addition to a glow in the dark watch made by Time Concepts due out in July.

For the second year in a row, they're teaming up with Oakland-based Try-Chemistry on a special line of 1971-themed vape cartridges. This year, the Waldos are paying tribute to one of the most iconic vintage strains of cannabis.

"In 1971, the Waldos were discovering new kinds of stronger weed, and one of the strains was Panama Red," said Reddix.

While their taste in pot hearkens back to an earlier era of stoner culture, the group is embracing the more modern lexicon surrounding the drug.

"This is an old strain from almost 50 years ago, but the CBD content and the THC content are 50/50 which is very unusual," added Reddix.