The History Behind 420: A Stoner's Favorite Holiday

Where's Weed

Published on 4/20/22

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Spring will always usher in rainier days, fresh blooms, and warmer days looming on the horizon. Another thing springtime brings about is a favorite holiday for those who celebrate and partake in cannabis, 420. For those who are still unsure, 420 is national weed day, and it's time to celebrate. We're here to debunk the myths and folklore surrounding the holiday while giving you the tools to take part in celebrating daily

The Unlikely 420 Origin Story

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There is something hazy about cannabis culture - and we're not talking about the smoke. When it comes to the history of 420, there are many myths and ideas circulating that are simply fiction. Some of the false narratives that surround the 420 meaning speculate that 420 was a radio code used for either the NYPD or LAPD, that it correlates to Adolf Hitler's birthday, and that 420 is a Bob Dylan song reference. While these legends may seem interesting and fantastical, the real 4 20 meaning comes down to a group of high school kids. 

Back in the 1970s, at San Rafael High School, just north of the Bay Area in California, a group of high school kids were just looking to get baked and not get caught in the process. According to Chris Conrad, the curator at the Oaksterdam Cannabis Museum in Oakland, 420 was simply a secret code between friends. The five high school comrades, called the Waldos, used the code 420 to light up at 420 PM on school grounds. 

The idea was further catapulted into the stardom it holds today by one of the biggest bands in America at the time, The Grateful Dead. One of the Waldos was a roadie for the bassist, Phil Lesh, and was able to popularize the term through the band. On December 28th, 1990, flyers were passed around at a Grateful Dead show to "Smoke 420" on 4/20 at 420 PM. The biggest name in cannabis media, High Times, picked up on it - and the rest is history. 

So, the next time you're in a smoking circle with friends and someone asks, "Why is 420 weed day?" - you will be able to hit them with the facts. 

420 History: Then and Now 

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When people think about the birth of cannabis in America, they think of the counterculture movement, which was full of anti-war values, bold colors and patterns, and a love for drugs such as marijuana and psychedelics. One can think of the early days of the celebration of 420 in the same light. Initial celebrations were not only for the celebration of cannabis but also for condemning the criminalization of the herb. Massive crowds would conduct "smoke outs" in very public places in cities across the US. 

Today, there are still huge smoke outs in America, notably at the University of Colorado Boulder and at the University of California in Santa Cruz. However, there has been a notable shift in the corporate commercialization of such a holiday. The Cannabis Cup that takes place on and around 420 is held to show off products and celebrity endorsements within the United States. Even other countries have followed suit with smoke outs in London and Vancouver. Home to the cannabis cafe, Amsterdam has hosted a music festival with infused lunches, coffee shop tours, and more on the sacred 420 holiday. 

While we may want to keep the corporation out of cannabis, this is a positive sign for legalization efforts not only in America, but around the world as well. 

420 Can Be Every Day 

Treating yourself to cannabis each day doesn't have to look like getting so baked that your responsibilities don't get completed or lounging on the couch for hours. 420 can be a daily ritual that amplifies your life, keeping you uplifted and in a great headspace for hours on end. 

Know Yourself and Your Body 

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When it comes to consuming cannabis on the daily, knowing how you function and react to cannabis will make a world of difference. If you find yourself to be lazier with cannabis, make sure that the to-do list is checked off or pencil in a specific time to consume when you don't need to tend to other responsibilities. Microdose or start low and go slow to guarantee that you don't become overwhelmingly baked. 

Find Your Perfect Strain 

A great strain of weed is like a pair of jeans, and you'll just know when you've found the perfect fit. Assess what you want out of cannabis, and make sure you choose the type of strain (indica, hybrid, sativa) to fulfill those needs every time. 

Infuse Your Food 

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If you consider yourself a chef in the kitchen, instead of rolling up a joint each day or packing a bong every night, infuse some tasty treats with cannabis. If you're not looking to indulge too heavily in sweets, consider infusing coconut milk or honey for your tea or coffee each morning for a pleasant buzz.

What have you heard about the origins of 420? Have you ever been to a different country as they celebrated 420? Tell us your favorite stoner holiday traditions in the comments below.