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The History of Cannabis in Northern CA + Gift Bag Event!

Week 3 — The History of Cannabis in Northern California

Northern California, Where Cannabis has its Roots

There’s an unmistakable feeling of cheer throughout California. The holiday spirit in the air is palpable—in fact, you can almost smell it. It’s almost 420! For cannabis-lovers everywhere, April 20th is a fun holiday to honor our favorite flower with a joint, an edible, a tincture, an infused body lotion, a relaxing cannabis epsom salt bath or whatever your favorite psychoactive product may be. And to stimulate your mind (as if we needed any more stimulation on a day like today) we’re diving into the surprising history of the holiday, which, just like many of our favorite cannabis products, was invented right here in our backyard.

The Origins of 420: Northern California’s Contribution

As it turns out, the story of 420—just like the story of the modern cannabis industry—begins in Northern California. In 1971, a group of high schoolers in San Rafael used to hang out by a wall outside their school. Their habit of smoking pot at the wall earned them the nickname “the Waldos.” Legend has it that they found a treasure map that marked a spot on the Point Reyes National Seashore where a Coast Guard member had abandoned a hidden cannabis crop. As you can imagine, they jumped at the chance for an adventure—and the opportunity to get their hands on some free bud. They began meeting daily after school to sniff out the stash, and their meeting time was—you guessed it—4:20 pm.

420 in Northern California’s Cannabis Culture

From there, the history of 420 merges with the history of Northern California cannabis culture in its entirety. The Waldos, in their central Marin enclave, hung out in the same scene as some well-known potheads, including Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh. The phrase trickled into the group consciousness of jam-band subculture, and by 1990 it was appearing on band fliers, promotional materials for informal events and, eventually, in High Times magazine. 420 had made the leap from San Rafael High to national media, and the future of April 20th was settled.

420’s Intersection with Cannabis Legalization and Activism

At the same time, state and federal governments were working to enforce the unjust, racist policy of prohibition. Cannabis had been used as a xenophobic wedge issue since the early 1900s, when the term “marijuana” was coined as a dog-whistle to stigmatize the plant by associating it with Mexican immigrants. While the Waldos were hunting for treasure in Point Reyes, undocumented, Black and Indigenous people were suffering under the scrutiny and aggression of the police. 

Turning the Tide: 420 Goes Mainstream

The tide, though, was slowly beginning to turn. As 420 was going mainstream, so was cannabis itself. When the Haight Street hippy movement ran aground in the ‘70s, pieces of timber drifted all over California. The Grateful Dead came out of that post-hippy cultural melange, as did the reputation of the Emerald Triangle, the trio of Humboldt, Trinity and Mendocino Counties that would become famous as the world capital of top-shelf cannabis production. Less than a decade after the phrase 420 became known around the nation, California took the first step on the path to ending prohibition with the passage of Prop. 215, which provided legal protections for medical cannabis.

Nostalgia and Innovation: California’s Cannabis Renaissance

It can be tempting to feel nostalgia for California’s renaissance, the years before cannabis went corporate. But legalization has improved many things, and the best parts of those years’ philosophy can still be found here in the Golden State. While there are plenty of producers out there trying to make money off low-quality, mass-produced product, the ethos of community-oriented, locally rooted cannabis is still strong in Northern California. Just ask our incredible partners Heartrock Mountain Farm and Alpenglow Farms, two family operations who produce small-batch, sun-grown products locally in Mendocino and Humboldt.

The Everlasting Spirit: Innovation and Ideals in Northern California

The boundary-pushing philosophy of the Waldos and their contemporaries has also survived, and plenty of locals are still here innovating and improving the products they sell. These ideals have deep roots in Northern California, just like Solful itself, and we’re proud to carry the torch of California cannabis into a new decade. There’s no better day than 4/20 to celebrate the Golden State, so let’s spark one up to celebrate our state’s rich history—or if you prefer, read on to discover some of our favorite local products cooked up right here in Northern California (and save 25% through April 20, 2021).


One of the first companies in the world to produce lab-tested, legal oils and extracts. Founded by cannabis pioneers Ned Fussell and Dennis Hunter, who walked the walk and have the scars to show it, from raids on the shop to stints in prison. Today they happily and legally produce some of the best extracts available anywhere.


The original NorCal edible company, Kiva has been putting out branded edibles since 2010, when most cannabis companies were still just dorm-room ideas. Today they continue to innovate and push the envelope with products like their mints, chocolates and new live resin-infused Lost Farm Gummies.

Heartrock Mountain Farm

Heartrock is a true California classic operation. Established way back in 1976 by Clifford Morford, who saved cannabis seeds for ten years before he started up the farm, Heartrock is now a multi-generational family-run operation that grows heirloom strains and sells seeds around the state.

Alpenglow Farms

One of our closest and longest-term partner farms, Alpenglow Farms is run by our friends Craig and Melanie Johnson, who have been growing cannabis in Humboldt County for decades. Their commitment to community, family and regenerative farming makes them a great modern-day example of the true Northern California cannabis spirit.

Emerald Cup Supply Co

You can’t tell the story of Northern California Cannabis without talking about the Emerald Cup, the “Academy Awards of Weed.” Now the folks who put the event on every year have come together to embody the Cup’s focus on impeccable quality in a line of prerolls and live rosin.

Sweet Releaf

All-natural and cruelty-free, woman-owned Sweet Releaf embodies a hopeful vision of the power of cannabis to change the world. They’re one of the oldest topical brands in California, and their body butters and oils have won thousands of dedicated fans who swear by their ability to ease pain and reduce inflammation.

*To qualify for each of the gift bags, your purchase must total $100 before taxes, $200 before taxes, or $300 before taxes respectively. There are limited quantities of each gift bag tier and we reserve the right to change these items. Gift bags are limited to in-store purchases only. Valid from April 14 – 20, 2021 while supplies last. 25% off discount applies to all AbsoluteXracts cartridges, tinctures & capsules; all Kiva edibles, all Heartrock Mountain Farm flower, all Emerald Cup Supply Co. extracts & prerolls, all Sweet Relief topicals, and all Alpenglow Farm flower. Again, valid from April 14 – 20, 2021 and only while supplies last!

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