April, 20 or 420 has been lighting up every year. It's become popular even among those that don't smoke weed. It's an annual event observed as a means of celebrating marijuana use and campaigning for it to become legalised in parts where it is illegal. But where did this holiday come from, and how did it become associated with marijuana use? Here’s everything you need to know about this unique holiday.
Where and How Did it Start?
420 is widely to owe its roots to five Californian high school students; Mark Gravich, Jeffrey Noel, Dave Reddix, Larry Schwartz and Steve Capper.
The five students from San Rafael High School devised a secret code in 1971 to indicate that they would meet later in the day for their cannabis session.
After saying “420” to each other when passing each other in the school’s hallways, they would then meet at 4:20 pm to smoke cannabis.
The students were nicknamed the “Waldos” because they smoked against a wall near 19th-century scientist Louis Pasteur’s statue at their school.
Over the years, people forgot about the San Rafael boys and dropped the idea of the 420 code. But during the 1990s, it is said a group of Grateful Dead fans started to fan the ritual by introducing flyers inviting people to smoke at 4:20 pm on April 20.
The Grateful Dead members played a crucial role in promoting the cause, and from that time, because of how far the ritual spread, the link between 420 and weed became stronger. It is now a culture observed worldwide and has even become a trademark.
Another common myth is that 420 was the California police penal code for marijuana. Exciting as it may be, there’s no evidence to support those claims.
Another theory is that there are 420 active chemicals in the marijuana plant, which creates a direct connection between the weed and the number. But that’s not entirely true either because so far, there are over 500 such components in the marijuana plant.
4/20 the Commercial Event
Traditionally, 4/20 was a counterculture holiday to protest the social and legal stigmas against marijuana. But, as marijuana legalisation looms and big businesses start venturing into weed growth, selling and marketing, the counterculture allure of 4/20 is losing its shine.
Because of the popularity and legalisation of cannabis in many parts of the world, including states in the US, 420 is not becoming a celebration event where companies are taking the opportunity to promote their weed products. The calls for legalisation are still loud and clear, and most 420 events are slowly giving way to marketing and meet and greets among weed consumers and companies.
The Biggest 420 Events Historically
420 received notoriety after a huge smoking event at Mt. Talampaism. The 420 events saw a boom, and smokers across the globe started meeting and gathering at various locations on April 20 to share experiences. Along the way, there have been some major 420 events. Some of the biggest include:
London’s 420 Hyde Park
Considering the US has been at the forefront of weed legalisation and 420, you would expect them to be top of the list. But the UK takes the honours through London’s 420 Hyde Park event, where hundreds of people gathered in 2021 at the height of Covid restrictions. In the past, Hyde Park used to host thousands of people to protest the strict laws regarding marijuana which is a Class B drug in the UK. It is also illegal to grow and distribute.
Vancouver’s Smoke Out
Vancouver’s Smoke Out 420 event attracts over 500 vendors and has an attendance of more than 100,000. It is a non-profit and volunteer-run group in Canada that works towards improving 420 events in their country.
Milan’s International Cannabis Fair
The 420 events in Milan are courtesy of Milan’s International Cannabis Fair, which organises the 420 Hemp Fest. Milan is considered the Hub of the hemp industry and gains massive attention from hemp lovers every year. The event runs for three consecutive days and hosts producers worldwide who showcase different types of CBD flowers. It has been one of the most successful hemp fests because of its high-impact methodology of promoting hemp.
Washington DC’s National Cannabis Festival
The Washington DC National Cannabis Festival is a high-impact event with some of the most prominent names in the entertainment industry in the US. In 2022, the event hosted names like Wiz Khalifa, Ghostface Killah, Lettuce, Backyard Band and Slick Rick. The event’s purpose is to promote lawful cannabis and celebrate cannabis in different forms. The festival included various events like music, food, cannabis stalls and hemp policy discussions, among others.
No matter how you look at it, 4/20 has always been associated with weed consumption right from the beginning. Although it wasn’t initially intended to be a celebration day for cannabis consumption, it has grown into one of the most important days for marijuana consumers where they can push for legalisation and policies that promote the growth and consumption of weed.