420: Why is this number an important symbol among cannabis enthusiasts?
Updated: Nov 7, 2022
420, as you probably know, is the holiday of weed. Every year on April 20th, cannabis lovers from all over the world celebrate the plant in different ways, all of them having cannabis consumption as a common and central point. This holiday is the perfect opportunity to get together with friends for a unique and festive moment!
Why limit the celebration of the plant to April 20 only? Many weed fans also celebrate their love for cannabis at 4:20 pm every day!
The story behind the three mysterious numbers 420
There are many myths and false stories surrounding the history of 420. What is the significance of these three numbers and what is the real story behind its undisputed association with cannabis?
Some might mistakenly say that 420 is the number used by the police to report cannabis offenses, that it is the number of active molecules in the plant or even that 420 has a link with the birthday of Adolf Hitler who was born on April 20 (1).
The true story behind the 420 is the Waldos' one. To date, this is the only story that has been supported by physical pieces of evidence (a 420 flag from the 1970s and stamped letters from the same year), presented by the Waldos themselves when they came out of the shadows to finally put an end to the false rumors and to claim their title as the founders of 420.
The 420 tradition was born in Marin County, California in 1971. The Waldos, a group that included Mark Gravitch, Dave Reddix and Steve Capper, were five teenagers who liked to hang out near their high school, San Rafael High School.
It all started when the Waldos heard that a weed plantation had been abandoned in Point Reyes and that the owner of the land had left a map to find it. The five friends agreed to meet every 4:20 in the afternoon to go together in search of this famous "weed" plantation, a journey of course accompanied by a joint (or several).
Unfortunately, the teens were never able to find the weed garden, but they continued to use the term 420 when referring to the time they would meet up to smoke a joint after school, without the teachers being able to understand their code.
The popularity of the term spread quickly through San Rafael High School, but the reason why 420 is now known worldwide is that one of the Waldos (David Reddix) had as his older brother the bassist of the Grateful Dead, a popular rock band that helped popularize this code through their world tours where they associated cannabis and 420 (2).
The days when the subtlety of the word 420 to refer to a "cannabis sesh" reigned are sadly over, as the popularity of these numbers continues to rise the more cannabis legalization spreads around the world. So you can no longer say to your friend "I'll see you at 4:20" without some of the people around you understanding exactly what you are referring to. ;)
How to celebrate 420?
Most cannabis fans will celebrate in the simplest way possible: by lighting a joint or blunt or by enjoying edibles. In short, for many, celebrating 420 is about consuming weed in any way they can!
But 420 is also an opportunity to gather cannabis lovers to celebrate, to manifest against cannabis prohibition, but especially to highlight their love for the plant.
On April 20, several events are held around the world each year to celebrate this tradition. With more and more places in the world where it is legal to consume cannabis, the opportunities to celebrate 420 are increasing and are very varied (3)!
This free event is one of the largest cannabis festivals in the world. Every year on April 20, thousands of people gather in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco to celebrate the plant. In 2022, the event is finally coming back after 2 years of cancellation due to COVID-19 and for the first time, attendees will be able to purchase cannabis on-site from licensed retailers (4)!
420 Vancouver is a festival held in Vancouver's Victory Square Park that welcomes over 150 000 attendees to celebrate, protest, consume cannabis and share a unique moment with the added bonus of a free concert by world-renowned artists.
The event has been described since 1995 as a massive act of civil disobedience, creating a safe and comforting space for the cannabis-loving community. Cannabis users have the opportunity to gather and party without any shame or stigma (5).
This festival, held in Denver, Colorado, brings together pro-cannabis activists from around the world at Civic Center Park. The goal is to break the stigma associated with cannabis use as well as to celebrate the plant with live music and other festivities (6).
In Washington, D.C., this year, the 6th annual National Cannabis Festival will take place, where many unique experiences, including workshops on the different spheres of cannabis and musical performances, await participants (7).
There are several other events taking place all over the world to celebrate cannabis on the day of 420, so there are definitely ways to celebre the plant no matter where you are in the world (or almost)!