This is the transcribed conversation I had with a friend from Marin County, a county extremely close to San Rafael. This friend also happens to observe this Holiday and I inquired into its origins.
E: How did this unconventional holiday come to be?
J: In the early 70’s at San Rafael high school a group of friends who called themselves “The Waldos” began this tradition. One day one of the teenage boys got word from his brother’s friend that someone had planted a massive field of marijuana plants. Fortunate for the Waldos the field was apparently abandoned, so they decided to try and harvest.
Everyday, at 4:20 p.m., after their sports practices had ended the boys would go search for the bud. Unfortunately they never found the treasured field but it eventually became a tradition that everyday at that same time they would congregate and partake in a group smoking session. Eventually the tradition caught on with other students. It became part of of everyday vernacular. Because the Grateful Dead originate from an area not too far from the origins of 4/20 apparently some of the Waldos were friends with members of the group. Eventually the group further popularized the tradition and terminology, thus this day came to be.
E: When and how did you first hear this story?
J: I was fairly late into middle school or early into high school when an older friend of mine told me about it.
E: There are a lot of other theories as to its origins why are you so certain it stems from the Bay Area?
J: To begin it’s actually a common misconception that Bob Marley’s birthday is 4/20, it’s actually in February. Also, yes it does happen to be Hitler’s birthday but that’s no cause for celebration. The Waldos have the earliest recorded evidence of the use of the phrase and ideas about the tradition.
E: What does this day mean to you?
J: Honestly it’s more than weed. It’s about getting to spend time with people that you enjoy, and if people that you don’t enjoy are present then you can bond over weed. There’s a whole culture that came from that one group of friends in high school, I think that’s pretty special.
I found the alleged origin story of this modern holiday that came to be really interesting. Humble roots to say the least. I think it’s also amazing to see the pride people from the Bay Area have for being the site of its creation. The hometown pride and the sense of camaraderie showed me that the day means a lot more to people than it seems.