April 20 is a holy day in the pothead calendar. Come to think of it, it’s the only holy day in the pothead calendar.
There are plenty of myths as to how 4/20 came to be, but only one of them is true. It started in the 1970s, when a group of California high school students came across a map that allegedly showed the location of a hidden marijuana farm in the San Rafael National Forest.
The four boys set out to find the plants, supposedly abandoned by a soldier who was growing them covertly. They met every day outside their school at 4:20 p.m., after sports practice. They never found the mysterious garden, but they began using “4:20” as an everyday reference to weed.
From there, the term reached the Grateful Dead, and the rest is history. And that’s the story of 4/20. But what else has gone down on this happy date? As it turns out, quite a lot – much of it not so happy.
1889: Adolf Hitler Is Born
April 20 is a favorite date for skinheads and other white supremacists around the world. That’s because their deranged patron saint, Adolf Hitler, was born on this day.
The rest of Hitler’s life is well known. He failed as an artist, fought in World War I, and became so disillusioned with the state of German politics that he launched a racist right-wing party with hopes of seizing control.
It worked. Hitler rose to power in 1933, when he became chancellor and effective dictator of Germany. Six years later, his invasion of Poland sparked World War II. He killed himself in 1945, as Germany was about to surrender.
Hitler was responsible for the deaths of more people – tens of millions – than any person in human history. Not exactly the kind of legacy you want attached to pot, but what can you do?
1916: Chicago Cubs Play at Wrigley
April 20, 1916, marked the first game for the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Built in 1914 as Weeghman Park, Wrigley was the new home for the Cubs, who had played for years at the decaying West Side Grounds.
Built in Chicago’s Lakeville neighborhood (in an area now known as Wrigleyville), the ballpark is easily the most beloved in America, with its trademark ivy, its bleachers, and the close confines that allow many homers to land on the sidewalk outside.
The Cubs played the Cincinnati Reds that April. Ironically, given their record in the years since, the Cubbies won, 7-6, in extra innings. The ballpark has allegedly been cursed since the 1945 World Series, the last time the Cubs made the series. But maybe next year?
1961: Bay of Pigs Invasion
On April 20, 1961, the CIA sent a small army of Cuban expatriates on a hair-brained mission to invade Cuba and seize control from communist dictator Fidel Castro. The invasion was part of a long-running scheme to push Castro from power and cut Cuba off from its Soviet supporters.
The mission went poorly, to say the least. The expats were woefully under-equipped, badly outnumbered, and cut off from U.S. military support. At exactly the moment the U.S. government could have helped, President John F. Kennedy famously called off the invasion.
The Bay of Pigs plot didn’t just fail. It led to a diplomatic wall between the United States and Cuba that didn’t fall for another 50 years.
1999: The Columbine Massacre
Starting to get the picture? Yep, aside from 420 (and arguably Wrigley Field), April 20 is a pretty nasty day, historically speaking. Among other atrocities, it is the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Col.
Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, two seniors, went on a shooting rampage that killed 13 people, most fellow students. Harris and Klebold ultimately killed themselves while trading shots with police.
After all that, who would want to share April 20 as a holiday? Well, keep in mind, lots of stuff has happened on this date. Lots of stuff has happened on every date. And given human nature, lots of it was bad. So don’t feel guilty about lighting up that spliff this year – just, you know, pass it around and build up some good karma for our only holiday.