April 20 or 4/20 is a day of celebration and excitement for cannabis enthusiasts in Canada and across the globe. Many eagerly look forward to the day, marking 4/20 in their calendars, stocking up for the day’s festivities, and meeting with friends and family. Some watch the clock to consume cannabis at precisely 4:20 PM. Others await “High Noon.” But why April? Why the 20th? And why 4:20 PM?
The misunderstood history of 4/20 and the countless theories and origin stories behind the day range from the obscure and random to the downright hilarious. Let’s be clear: 420 is not a police radio code, nor a mysterious reference to a Bob Dylan song, nor a secret chat room code to identify cannabis consumers.
Northern California Origins
Instead, 4/20 began in 1971 when a group of California high school kids heard rumors about an abandoned field of cannabis plants and decided to investigate. Calling themselves the Waldos, the friends from San Rafael, California meet after school at 4:20 PM to set out and search for the plants. The friends’ journeys soon became a daily activity and when the abandoned plants proved hard to find, they brought their own supply of cannabis. Soon, 420 became a kind of slang or shorthand for hanging out with friends and enjoying cannabis.
One of the Waldos’ was connected to Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh, and the term 420 quickly gained popularity among the band, road crew, and loyal followers. By the early 1990s flyers passed around at Grateful Dead shows made mention of the “High Holiday” and encouraged supporters to consumer marijuana when the clock struck 4:20 PM. Flyers and posters brought the term to a larger audience, eventually drawing the attention of famous cannabis culture magazine High Times. Stories and reports in High Times popularized 420, launching the celebration into the mainstream. Investigations by the magazine confirmed the Waldos as the originators of 420. The rest, as they say, is history.
From humble origins in Northern California 4/20 has grown into a truly global event and the day is marked and celebrated in communities across North America, Europe, and many other continents. Just across the border in Ann Arbor, Michigan, “Hash Bash” occurs on the first Sunday in April to celebrate legalization and to commemorate the work of early activists and reformers. Possession of small amounts of marijuana was decriminalized in Ann Arbor in the early 1970s, long before many other cities in the United States. In Berlin Germany a yearly Hanfparade (Hemp Parade) celebrates cannabis culture with parade floats, costumes, and other themed events.
Canadians are most familiar with large gatherings in Ottawa at Parliament Hill and in Toronto at Yonge-Dundas Square, where people of all backgrounds come together in celebration. But even in smaller communities, like London and Windsor, cannabis enthusiasts organize events with unique local twists and events.
Wherever you decide to celebrate 4:20, remember to do so responsibly and with kindness and consideration for others. ShinyBud wishes you and yours a happy 4/20! Enjoy!