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The surprising history of marijuana and why it’s illegal

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Twenty-nine states have legalized the use of medical marijuana and on top of that, nine states and Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational pot. But the question is, why was it illegal in the first place? The true history of “420” — the global code for marijuana — started with a treasure map, five teenage boys, a rogue Coast Guardsman and a lucky connection with the Grateful Dead. And, of course, some bud. Canna-sseurs worldwide have been celebrating April 20 (April 20 equals 420 in date form.) for decades, most of them not knowing why that date specifically was the chosen holiday for stoners. Rumors started that 420 was originally a marijuana-related police code (even though it never was) or that it was somehow tied to Hitler’s birthday (What?), but it turns out that there’s a more likely, credible story out there. A group of five men, who call themselves the Waldos, have made it their task every April to set the record straight. “We had no idea we were making history, it was just an inside joke,” said Dave Reddix, one of the Waldos. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the Waldos noticed 420 was being used by the masses, far beyond the reaches of where they first coined the term in their hometown of San Rafael, Calif. They reached out to High Times in 1998, told their story and have been gathering more and more proof ever since.

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