Why Is 420 Associated With Weed? – How April 20 Became “Weed Day”

Nikhil Goswami

Weed users worldwide celebrate 420 every year on the 20th of April. Cannabis enthusiasts celebrate this annual event as an unofficial holiday by hanging out with each other and smoking marijuana. But why do people associate 420 with hemp or weed? Why do they celebrate it on the 20th of April every year? In this post, we’ve jotted down all the answers to your question regarding 420 and its link with hemp.

Happy 420 Day

420 has taken off during the last few years as a hallowed date in the calendar. People celebrate this day with a movement in which they hold major rallies across the country in states where people enjoy marijuana legalization and smoke marijuana. You can even buy weed online legally. Every year, pot smokers, producers, and advocates celebrate this day to seek the legalization of hemp for medicinal and recreational purposes. Currently, it is legal in 15 states.

As the popularity and support for hemp products increase, 420 day is gaining more attention among the masses. The marijuana industry is looking forward to leveraging the day to grab more chances to sell its products. Furthermore, 420 tells us about how the concept of using cannabis is changing in America and is celebrated as a short holiday by hemp enthusiasts. 

In short, 420 has become a numerical code for hemp, and enthusiasts consider it a representation of smoking pot.

Where and How Did 420 Originate?

Though people use 420 in common vernacular in association with the date April 20 (4th month) of the year, other stories are also related to it. One of the various myths regarding the code includes its association with Adolf Hitler’s birthday. Some people also think that 420 originated in California. Another fiction surrounding 420 states that 420 is the police radio code that the police use to describe ‘Marijuana smoking in progress,’ which is not true. However, the main reason behind the weed slang is associated with a group of people from a school. A former editor of High Times, a hemp-focused new outlet, narrated the event to New York Times. The event dates back to the 1970s in California when five San Rafael high school students used to smoke hemp daily at 4:20 pm.

The high school boys included Larry Schwartz, Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, and Mark Gravich. These high schoolers were addicted to smoking and used ‘420’ as a code word to talk to each other about the smoking meetup. At that time, hemp was strictly illegal; that’s why they had chosen the time at 4:20 pm because, by that time, school extracurricular activities were usually over. These five students called themselves ‘Waldos’ as they used to sit beside the wall in their school to use hemp.

People slowly forgot the San Rafael High School boys, and they eventually dropped the idea of the 420 code. It is said that during the 1990s, a group of Grateful Dead fans started to promote the ritual by introducing flyers that invited people to smoke at 4:20 pm on April 20. The Grateful Dead members played an important role in promoting hemp. From that time onwards, due to the ritual spread, the link between 420 and hemp became stronger; now, it’s a part of American culture. Later, 420 became a trademark and was converted to 4/20 to use in calendars.

More About the Waldos

The five guys who called themselves Waldos have been talking about hemp recently. Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, and other school friends spoke to The Times and talked about how 420 originally started. The story has also been mentioned in Huffington Post, where the author talks about the mystery of 420 being solved. Many people consider the Waldos as the drug’s legalization efforts pioneer.

The Waldos are still good friends with each other, and they are continuously promoting and supporting the drug. The friends talked about weed slang and how they learned about hemp. They said that once, they were sitting on the wall when a friend came and told them that his brother was a Coast Guard member. He further said that some guys in the Coast Guard in the Marin county were growing hemp on the Point Reyes Peninsula. So, that guy gave them the map to pick the pot for free at Reyes forest. At that time, they considered that a treasure map for themselves.

The friends used to meet in front of the Louis Pasteur statue and get high. Reddix’s brother assisted him in getting employed as a backpacker for the Grateful Dead Bassist Phil Lesh, and the code for marijuana, 420, started spreading. Later, in 1991, the High Times magazine printed a flier to promote 420, becoming a global representation of hemp.

The Waldos were offered open access to Dead events and parties. According to Steve, there was a place called Winterland where they would mostly be backstage, running onstage and around it using those phrases. In 1998, a brand acknowledged that the Waldos were the actual originators of 420.

Bob Dylon and His Association With 420

According to some people, Bob Dylon has something to do with 420 and hemp. Bob had a song named ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,’ and some people realized that multiplying 12 and 35 gives you 420. However, Dylon recorded the song in 1966, which was way earlier than Waldos and their association with 420. Most people believe that it’s highly unlikely that Bob Dylon’s song had something to do with the Happy 420.

A Theory Related to the Actual Hemp Plant

Besides all the myths surrounding the Happy 420, there’s something related to the actual plant too. Science tells us that more than 400 chemical compounds exist in cannabis plants, and some believe they might be 420.

420 Becomes Popular On Social Media

Recently hemp enthusiasts have been looking to social media to raise voices for marijuana legalization. Netizens posted pictures of different types of hemp products on their social media accounts. A well-known page ‘XXL Magazine’ posted a picture with the caption ‘Happy 420’. The picture had actor Seth Rogen with rappers Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg, who were smoking.

The green herb receives much coverage on social media every year as fans celebrate it on the same day every year. There are various posts on Instagram where social media users express their concerns regarding hemp use. With platforms like Twitter and Instagram, hemp users have a strong platform to advocate and support their views. The hemp lovers use 420 as a code word to promote the use and to raise their voices for relaxation of the laws regarding it. 

Hemp users are naturally social; they love to hang out with each other and spend time with like-minded buddies. Thus, social media is a perfect place for hemp users to interact and discuss their activities with each other. These platforms prove to be very handy for hemp enthusiasts who stay connected and share their favorite products.

420 Events in America

In 2022, after a gap of two years, the people in the S.F. prepared for a big annual gathering for hemp lovers. According to the Recreation and Parks Department manager, Phil Ginsburg, there are lawful sales of hemp products this year, but you aren’t allowed to use them if you’re under 21. In the past, thousands of people gathered at Golden Gate Park’s Hill to celebrate the day.

Besides that, a Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bete O’Rourke encouraged his people to donate $4.20 to support his campaign. He was on a campaign to legalize medical hemp in Texas.

Also, numerous companies offer discounts and sale offers for hemp and various products that come from the cannabis plant. Many companies encourage smoking weed by giving price breaks. For instance, Jimmy Johns offered price breaks on their sandwiches per the ‘high-level’ elevation. Plus, Wingstop, a hot wings company, introduced ‘Blazed & Glazed’ as a 420-infused flavor that was only available till April 22. Following is a list of 420 events in America from the recent years to promote the use of hemp:

  • Hippie Hill

As we mentioned earlier, this event was one of the most highlighted 420 events. It was free, and there were legal hemp sales during the event this year. There were performances by Mike Tyson, Berner, and Hannibal Burress. Apart from the Golden Gate, another 420 events were held in the Robin Williams Meadow. Tens of thousands of people gathered here, and it was the most prominent 420 event in America.

  • Glasshouse Fest

Glasshouse farms and Jam in the van is a leading greenhouse company. It celebrated ‘Glasshouse fest’ offering free entry, and the timings were from 4.20 pm until 11 pm. The event included a music and comedy stage, and the lineup included Duckworth, Guapdad 4000, Reggie Watts, and Blackillac. The event was held on April 20 to honor the cannabis plant. Plus, they followed the federal law and allowed only those above 21.

  • Evergreen San Francisco

San Francisco is the birthplace of the legalization of medical marijuana. It offered to celebrate the day by introducing an entire week of festivities throughout the city. More than a dozen dispensaries offered deals for different types of products from medical hemp. Besides that, there were workshops, musical performances, panels, scavenger hunts, and guided city tours during the week. The events to celebrate Happy 420 started on April 16th and continued until April 24th.

  • Damn Sam & N.Y. Harvest Fest

Rob Robinson has been working for more than two decades to promote hemp-based events and the use of medical marijuana. This year, he pulled out an event in New York that included educational fares, laser shows, an art gallery, a full bar, unlimited digital access, and comedy. There was a sanctioned outdoor smoking section for all hemp lovers. The event was held on April 20, and the timings were 4.20 pm until late.

Major 420 Events In The Past

After cannabis enthusiasts held a huge smoking event at Mt. Talampaism, the 420 events saw a boom. Smokers from across the globe started meeting and gathering at various locations on the 20th of April to share their experience with hemp smoking. However, the COVID restrictions canceled most of the events and gatherings for 420 during 2020 and 2021. But things heated up during 2022, and there were various pro-hemp movements across the globe. Following are some of the major 420 events in the past:

  • London’s 420 Hyde Park

In spite of Covid restrictions, hundreds of people gathered in Hyde Park on 20th April 2021. However, the police officers were patrolling while groups of people gathered for the Happy 420. In the past, thousands of people used to gather in Hyde Park in London to protest against the strict laws regarding hemp. The U.K. considers cannabis a Class B drug, and it is illegal to grow, possess, and distribute it. Plus, people there could face five years in prison if caught with hemp. Moreover, if you grow hemp there, you can end up in prison for 14 years. Though in 2021, there were no major events, a small group of people still gathered to celebrate happy 420 to raise their voices for the relaxation of laws against hemp.

  • Vancouver’s Smoke Out

The 420 Vancouver group did not organize any protest rally on the 20th of April in 2022. The reason they gave was that stated had not lifted the covid restrictions, and thus they couldn’t hold up the event. However, hundreds of protestors gathered and celebrated cannabis plants in the past. They introduce more than 500 vendors annually, and the attendance totals more than 100,000. The 420 Vancouver is a non-profit and volunteer-run group in Canada that is working towards the betterment of 420 events in their country.

  • Milan’s International Cannabis Fair

Milan’s International Cannabis Fair organizes a 420 Hemp fest in Italy. Milan is also considered the hub of the hemp industry there. The event gains much attention every year from hemp lovers as people continue to attend it. Normally, the fair is carried out for three days in a row, where producers from around the world hold different types of CBD flower competitions. The 420 hemp fest has been successful because of its high-impact methodology for promoting hemp.

  • Washington DC’s National Cannabis Festival

Washington DC’s National Cannabis Festival was held in 2022 with a huge lineup that included Wiz Khalifa, Slick Rick, Backyard Band, Ghostface Killah, and Lettuce. The event’s main aim was to support lawful hemp and celebrate hemp in different forms. A small group of hemp lovers funded the event in 2015 by a small to promote the legitimization of hemp in Washington DC. This year, the organizers held the festival at the RFK Stadium Festival Grounds in Lot 8. Participants had to be 21 years or older, and you needed tickets to enter the festival. Various events at this festival included exhibits, music, food, stalls, hemp policy discussions, and more. 

Where is Marijuana Legal?

In the U.S, Hemp is legal in 37 states, but federal law still considers it a crime. Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of legalizing medical marijuana at the federal level. They took this step to decriminalize the use of hemp and legalize cannabis in the U.S.

The Senate put forward a bill called the ‘Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act’ for debates and discussions. Earlier, the bill passed the House in 2020, but the Senate did not take any further action. The Senate requires mostly 60 votes pass legislation. However, later the voters in the majority approved the measure to legalize hemp on April 21, a year later. After this action, companies started selling recreational hemp in New Jersey.

According to the Commission that regulates the state’s hemp sales, there are more than 800,000 potential recreational customers in the Garden State. Plus, there are more than 800,000 potential ‘hemp’ tourists too. Also, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only three states in the country have no hemp-related laws on the books.

States in Which Marijuana is Legal

Recreational and medical marijuana is legal in 19 states. These states include New York, California, Colorado, Arizona, Alaska, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Washington DC. California was the first state which legalized medical marijuana in 1996, after which it became a state’s right. Following is a breakdown of the legitimization in the U.S.

  • Alaska

Medical and recreational hemp both are lawful in Alaska. The state’s voters introduced and passed Measure 8 in 1998, which was a ballot initiative to promote hemp. Ballot Measure 2 was approved in 2014, which legalized the use of recreational hemp.

  • Arizona

In 2010, the voters passed a proposition 203 in Arizona, which legalized the use of hemp. Then in 2010, the voters in Arizona passed another proposition 207, which approved the use of recreational hemp.

  • California

In this state, voters passed Proposition 215, which was a ballot initiative for legalizing hemp in 1996. The state’s legislature adopted SB 420 in 2003, which protects the doctors from a conviction for recommending medical marijuana to their patients. The state passed Proposition 64 later in 2012, which completely legalized medical marijuana. The California penal code allows people over 21 years of age to possess up to 1 gram of hemp or up to eight grams of concentrated cannabis aficionados.

  • Colorado

In Colorado, voters passed the Ballot Amendment 20 for the legitimization of medical marijuana in 2000. The voters also passed Amendment 64 in 2012 in Colorado for the legitimization of recreational hemp.

In Which States ‘Comprehensive’ Medical Marijuana is Lawful?

Comprehensive medical marijuana is not lawful in all states. There are different criteria for the legitimization of comprehensive medical marijuana. The states must offer safety and protection from criminal penalties and strictly follow the low THC rule. The people should be allowed access to hemp products through dispensaries or homegrown products. Plus, the NCSL says that there should be more trial programs to support the use of hemp. One such program exists in Nebraska.

The states that have comprehensive medical hemp laws include Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands.

In Which States Are There Low THC Allowance for Medical Marijuana?

There are ten states that allow patients to consume low THC and high CBD products in certain conditions. Users can consume the products in lawful defense or for medical use. The states include Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Are There Any States With No Cannabis Access Laws?

Yes, there are some states that have no cannabis access laws at all. These states include Idaho, Kansas, and Nebraska.

Support For Marijuana Legalization Increases

According to a Gallup Poll in 2021, the support for hemp legitimization has increased. The numbers have reached an all-time high, with more than 68% of people supporting it, as known from the audience insights. Due to this reason, hemp has become the fastest-growing industry in the country. The support for unlimited access to hemp products continues to rise as more than two-thirds of Americans say that hemp should be legal.

Also, the sales of medical marijuana reached $25 billion last year. Researchers also say that the marijuana industry also supports full-time jobs, and job creation has increased by six figures for the first time. In 2019, there were 32,700 jobs created, while during this year, the number increased to 107,059.

Leafly states that America’s cannabis industry currently supports 428,059 full-time jobs. This means that the industry is seeing a 33% increase in jobs every year. Plus, this is the 5th year when the growth rate of annual jobs has increased by more than 27% in a row.

The retail giant Amazon also announced that it will not test job seekers for hemp from now on. This means that the brand also supports hemp products as it has eased the testing for those willing to work with the company. Amazon is the second-largest private employer after Walmart in the U.S., and this change is going to have a good impact on the industry.

The Impact of the Marijuana Reform Bill

Since the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly approved the far-reaching reform bill, there have been big changes. The act would probably remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances at the federal level and will also put a full stop to hemp prohibition. The bill would remove the details of the people charged with hemp-based offenses and reduce the punishment for others. The act will also increase the support funds in the community for a diverse market through a tax on sales.

Though the bans in various states won’t be affected, the reform bill through MORE will support the importance of bringing change in the industry. The Marijuana Justice Coalition, a partnership of organizations, is working for the betterment of federal marijuana reforms in the country. The Drug Policy Alliance leads the coalition, and other organizations include Clergy for a New Drug Policy, ACLU, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and Immigrant Defense Project.

Apart from that, the MORE act also focuses on racial equity regarding hemp use. The Human Rights Watch Report of 2016 stated that the conviction rate of Black people for drug possession was higher than white people. However, white people use drugs in the same quantity as black people.

Modern Meaning of 420

420 is a common phrase now when it comes to marijuana enthusiasts. Smokers use the to tell each other that it’s time to smoke. People also use 420 as a code to signal to each other about smoking, especially when they are among non-smokers. Apart from that, many hemp lovers use 420 on their email addresses, gamer tags, YouTube handles, Instagram profiles, and Twitter names. The term has become so common for the new generation that you’ll also see ‘420 friendly’ written on various rooms and apartments to rent. The 420-friendly term indicates that the place allows you to smoke pot, and no one would mind that so people can sit back and enjoy the best weed strains. Besides that, some people also consider 420 as the starting time for smoking, just to continue and honor the tradition.

Conclusion – What Made 420 Related To Weed?

Weed lovers consider 420 an important day, especially in the States. It has become a representation of the hemp culture and is celebrated by cannabis enthusiasts across the globe on April 20 every year. The support for the legalization of weed has been increasing every year for recreational and medicinal uses. Though it was a teen slang in the past, it has now become a trademark for celebrating a new holiday for weed lovers. 


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Nikhil Goswami

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