Why You Should Also Celebrate 419

By David Jenison on December 13, 2017

We all know about 420, even if the origin of the April 20 holiday is still debated, but what about 419? This holiday is arguably under-celebrated even though its origin is clearly defined. April 19 is the anniversary of the first intentional LSD trip! 

The year: 1943. The place: Basel, Switzerland. Three days earlier, Dr. Albert Hoffman—a chemist at the pharmaceutical company that later introduced Ritalin—decided to revisit a creation he invented five years earlier, i.e., lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). During its recreation, he accidentally ingested a small amount when he touched his mouth and face. 

"I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated[-]like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination," the doctor recalled. "In a dreamlike state... I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors."

After contemplating the experience over the weekend, Dr. Hoffman decided he wanted more, and he decided to trip that next Monday. He intentionally dosed himself with 250 micrograms of LSD, thinking that amount would represent a threshold dose, i.e., the minimal amount needed to feel the effects. He was a little off considering a threshold dose is closer to 20 micrograms. Dr. Hoffman started to feel the effects and realized he should leave, but the full psychedelic rush hit him on his bicycle ride home. For this reason, 419 is traditionally referred to as Bicycle Day. (And it certainly puts a new spin on this Queen classic.) 

Dr. Hoffman—a man truly ahead of his time—continued to microdose LSD for much of his life, calling it a "sacred drug." In his memoir, he argued, "I see the true importance of LSD in the possibility of providing material aid to meditation aimed at the mystical experience of a deeper, comprehensive reality." 

In the 1950s, Dr. Hoffman added to his legacy by studying magic mushrooms, and he correctly determined that psilocybin was the psychedelic compound. 

In an article for Scientific American, the director of the Center for Science Writings recalled meeting a 93-year-old Dr. Hoffman in 1999 and hearing about one of his more colorful trips. It involved a ghost town hallucination deep inside the earth. 

"Nobody was there. I had the feeling of absolute loneliness, absolute loneliness. A terrible feeling!" he recalled, but he emerged from the trip feeling invigorated. "I had feeling of being reborn! To see now again! And see what wonderful life we have here!"

So how does one celebrate 419? It would be nice to suggest taking a "trip" on a bicycle, but unless you live in a car-free place like Giethoorn in the Netherlands (see photo below), dosing and biking probably won't land you a Mensa membership. Smoking cannabis and driving is not advised either, but 420 does fall on the weekend for the next three years (through 2020) so maybe combine both holidays for a long weekend in nature. With little-to-no foot and car traffic, you can hike, bike, trip and blaze to your heart's content. 

Both Dr. Hoffman and the Waldos would approve. 

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