Almost everyone – stoner or non-stoner – knows what April 20, 4/20, or simply 420 is. But for those who don’t, April 20 is called “Weed Day,” an American holiday for cannabis culture that has now become international and is now celebrated in other countries.
However, even if many of us are already familiar with 4/20, only a few actually know how it came to be. Why April 20 of all dates? What is the date’s connection with cannabis?
There are many different stories about how 4/20 originated. One is that April 20 is Adolf Hitler’s birthday. Another version says 420 is the penal code section for pot smoking in California. And yet another says 420 is the code used by police officers to refer to “weed smoking in progress.” However, all these are nothing but speculations and urban myths and are simply not true.
For one, while Hitler was indeed born on April 20, in the year 1889, and was addicted to drugs like cocaine, amphetamines, and meth, the Nazi leader had nothing to do with marijuana. Also, Section 420 of the California Penal Code actually states that the obstruction or prevention of entry to public land is considered a misdemeanor and does not, in any way, refer to the use of cannabis. Moreover, the police also does not use 420 as a code to refer to “smoking pot in progress.”
Some also believe that 420 represents either the birthday or the death anniversary of popular cannabis advocates Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix. But neither one of these stoners was born on an April 20, and neither also died on that date.
Robert Nesta Marley, or Bob Marley, was a Jamaican singer and songwriter who became an international reggae music and cultural icon. He was born on February 6, 1945, and died on May 11, 1981.
The story most accepted to be true traces the origin of 4/20 to 1971 in Marin County in California, where a group of five male students from San Rafael High School would meet at 4:20 p.m. by the statue of famous chemist Louis Pasteur outside their school. They would then go on a hunt for a secret patch of marijuana plants that supposedly grew nearby Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard Station. The group, composed of Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Steve Capper, Mark Gravich, and Larry Schwartz, came to be called the “Waldos” because they’d meet at a wall. It was said that the group never found the cannabis plants, but they used “420” as a code when referring to anything marijuana-related.
The Waldos hung out with a band called the Grateful Dead because Reddix’s brother got him a job as a roadie. The group’s code for pot started to spread through the fans of the band and became associated with the cannabis subculture. During a Grateful Dead show in December 1990, people handed out flyers that told the “story” of 420 – the incorrect story – as well as included a call for people to gather together for a day of celebration on April 20, at 4:20 p.m. to smoke a joint.
Soon, 420 became a worldwide code for cannabis. In 1998, the “Waldos” were acknowledged to be the inventors of 420.
Now, the 420 annual holiday is not just celebrated by gathering on April 20 at 4:20 p.m. and smoking pot simultaneously. Today’s 420 events now involve various other activities and entertainment that last the entire day, sometimes even more! Some have educational sessions, rallies, food fairs, weed and accessories vendors, rolling competitions, dancing, and tons of live music.
There are festivities in countries all over the world, including Canada, Australia, London, Amsterdam, and Scotland. Yes, this means that even in countries where cannabis is still illegal, 420 is celebrated.
And now that you know how 420 began, you can take part in any 420 event near you.