Stumbling onto the true origins of 420

    At San Rafael High School in 1971, 12 high school students did some of the most groundbreaking work in narcotics linguistics in recent history.

    Though the faculty dismissed them as “”hippie”” clowns who would never amount to anything, these few proud individuals preferred to think of themselves as the Waldos. The Waldos were well-known by their peers as connoisseurs of cannabis.

    Many thought that for this sole reason the group would never do anything to better the world they lived in. But the Waldos took what they did seriously and revolutionized their culture by creating a covert stoner code that provided a multitude of functions.

    The Waldos do not get the credit they deserve for their contributions to stoner culture. There are numerous false accounts of the history behind 420. Some of the most popular stories include 420 being police code or Bob Marley’s birthday. The Waldos’ anonymity suits the purpose for their fame: namely that they were able to get high and not get caught.

    By using the words 420 in conversation, the Waldos were able to relay to each other that they had a desire to toke up after school (at approximately 4:20 p.m). Using this code meant this message could be given off in front of any unknowing authoritative enemy figure.

    Though the code serves little functional purpose today because it has gained such national notoriety during the late ’70s and early ’80 (due in part to its proliferation on concert posters), the spirit of the Waldos lives on in the myriad of other codes used by small stoner circles today.

    It is hard to imagine what a world void of the innovation of the Waldos would be like. If stoners were unaware of their ability to use code words in place of the word marijuana, it is likely that arrests would increase, leading to the need for larger prisons and more tax dollars.

    There is no way of knowing how much money the Waldos have saved U.S. citizens in tax dollars, not to mention members of various other countries that chose to adapt the use of their advanced encryption techniques. The Guardian’s rough estimate considering that the technique has been in use across the country for nearly 21 years is in the $420 billion range (adjusted for inflation).

    Not bad for a bunch of slackers.

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