The Origin of the 4/20 Holiday

Cannabis Leaf and Sunset in the Background

This April, with 21 states having legalized cannabis, more people will be celebrating 4/20 than ever before. Both users and non-users know this date as a national holiday to celebrate green (cannabis) – but do you know how the holiday started? There are many theories, but it’s high time you learned the truth about the origin of this vastly celebrated day. 

How Did 4/20 Start?

In 1971, five friends—Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich—would meet outside their San Rafael, California high school at 4:20 to smoke cannabis near a Louis Pasteur statue. They’d use the phrase “4:20 Louis” to let the others know that they planned on meeting. This phrase was later shortened to simply “4:20.” 

The group began calling themselves the “Waldos” as they met near a wall daily. The Waldos learned about a Coast Guard service member who was unable to continue caring for his cannabis plants located near the Coast Guard station on the Point Reyes Peninsula. 

The group came into possession of a map, and their meeting time soon had a new mission. The group would meet and explore the area, trying to find the treasure at the end of this map. While they never did find the cannabis plot, the phrase 4/20 stuck. 

In a 2017 interview, Reddix told TIME Magazine, “We got tired of the Friday-night football scene with all of the jocks. We were the guys sitting under the stands smoking a doobie, wondering what we were doing there.”

The phrase spread even further when Reddix became a groupie for The Grateful Dead in 1998. The Grateful Dead started using 4/20 language in their advertising and promotions, and the 4/20 craze spread like wildfire. 

Some Other Theories About the Origin of 4/20

As we mentioned, many theories are circulating about the origin of 420 and its meaning; some other common origins include:

  • Police code to indicate that there is active cannabis use in the area.
  • The famed Bob Dylan song “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35″ because multiplying 12 by 35 equals 420.
  • Some people believe that 420 is the number of chemical compounds present in the cannabis plant (there are hundreds of delightful cannabinoids and compounds, the number has never been cited as 420).

Cannabis Garden

Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

What is the Significance of 4/20?

This holiday grows larger and more popular every year. It’s no secret that cannabis use in the past, and some places, is still riddled with stigma and legal implications. Regardless, people now reach for the plant for recreational and even medicinal uses, making it more widespread and accepted than ever before. With legislation constantly being passed through the government supporting its legalization.

Cannabis culture has transformed, for many, from something to be hidden into something people love to celebrate. For many, cannabis has become a symbol of identity and a way to challenge the prevailing societal norms. Its use was often linked to particular music genres, social circles, and lifestyles, distinguishing a counterculture that opposed mainstream values. Many 4/20 celebrations are about community building and strengthening bonds with those around them, showing how the culture around cannabis has shifted. 

How Do People Celebrate 4/20?

Now a widespread cultural holiday, many have taken to throwing events that celebrate the use and evolution of cannabis in several ways. Need some event ideas where you can gather with like-minded enthusiasts? Here are some of the top spots around the country. 

  • Lifted 420 Festival – Lifted 420 Fest is the place to be for New Yorkers looking for a group toke this April. 420 Fest is a twelve-hour nonstop celebration with DJs, food, and lots of vendors. Buy goodies from nationwide vendors and listen to great music while you enjoy your high holiday! Get your tickets here. 
  • KUSHSTOCK  – KUSHSTOCK in Adelanto, California promises to be a festival full of celebration, education, and community. Like its predecessor Woodstock, there will be days full of music, multiple stages, and of course, plenty of cannabis. This isn’t just about getting new goods, though – KUSHSTOCK allows visitors to attend seminars, connect with experts, and be a part of valuable conversations about the state of cannabis culture. Get your tickets here. 
  • National Cannabis Festival – Want more than just one day to celebrate? The National Cannabis Festival in Washington, D.C., lasts an entire week. They have concerts, food vendors in the Munchies Zone, and plenty of goods to sample at the exhibitor’s fair. You can also learn from many of the nation’s top growers at an open forum with Q&A for growers. Get tickets here.

**(Disclaimer reminder: This article is not medical advice. It is based on anecdotal user experience alone. If you are thinking about incorporating cannabis (delta-8 THC, delta-9 THC, CBD, etc) into your medicinal routine, please consult a healthcare professional. Do not stop taking any prescribed medications without first consulting your doctor.)

Disclaimer: This article was written in March 2024 and reflects the current laws of the United States at that time. Because cannabis laws in the United States laws are subject to change at any time, please make sure that you are always staying up to date on your federal, state, and local county’s cannabis laws. Additionally, we are NOT encouraging anyone to break the law––we are simply showing people ways to legally and discreetly bring their cannabis products along with them on their travels so that they may have access to those products when they reach their intended destination.

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