420 (cannabis culture)

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Statue of Louis Pasteur created by Benny Bufano[1][2] at San Rafael High School, said to be the site of the original 4:20 gatherings
Observed by Cannabis counterculture, legal reformers, entheogenic spiritualists
Type Secular
Observances Cannabis consumption
Date April 20
Frequency annual

420, 4:20, or 4/20 (pronounced four-twenty) is a code-term in cannabis culture that refers to the consumption of cannabis, especially smoking cannabis around the time 4:20 p.m. (or 16:20 in 24-hour notation) and smoking cannabis in celebration on the date April 20 (which is 4/20 in U.S. form).[3]


In 1971, Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich, five high school students[4] in San Rafael, California,[5][6] calling themselves the Waldos[7][8] because "their chosen hang-out spot was a wall outside the school",[9] used the term in connection with a fall 1971 plan to search for an abandoned cannabis crop that they had learned about,[7][10] based on a treasure map made by the grower.[11] The Waldos designated the Louis Pasteur statue on the grounds of San Rafael High School as their meeting place, and 4:20 p.m. as their meeting time.[9] The Waldos referred to this plan with the phrase "4:20 Louis". Several failed attempts to find the crop eventually shortened their phrase to simply "4:20", which ultimately evolved into a codeword that the teens used to mean marijuana-smoking in general.[10]

Mike Edison says that Steven Hager of High Times was responsible for taking the story about the Waldos to "mind-boggling, cult-like extremes" and "suppressing" all other stories about the origin of the term.[12] Hager wrote "Stoner Smart or Stoner Stupid?" in which he called for 4:20 p.m. to be the socially accepted hour of the day to consume cannabis.[13] He attributes the early spread of the phrase to Grateful Dead followers, who were also linked to the city of San Rafael.[13]

International day for cannabis-related protests and events[edit]

Vancouver, April 20, 2012

April 20 has become an international counterculture holiday, where people gather to celebrate and consume cannabis.[3][14][15] Many such events have a political nature to them, advocating the liberalization / legalization of cannabis. Vivian McPeak, a founder of Seattle's Hempfest states that 4/20 is "half celebration and half call to action".[16] Paul Birch calls it a global movement and suggests that one can't stop events like these.[17]

On that day many marijuana users protest in civil disobedience by gathering in public to light up at 4:20 p.m.[18]

As marijuana continues to be decriminalized and legalized around the world Steve DeAngelo, cannabis activist and founder of California's Harborside Health Center, notes that "even if our activist work were complete, 420 morphs from a statement of conscience to a celebration of acceptance, a celebration of victory, a celebration of our amazing connection with this plant" and that he thinks that "it will always be worthy of celebration".[19][20]

In North America[edit]

Thousands illegally consume cannabis in Golden Gate Park to celebrate 420 and end prohibition, April 20, 2013

North American observances have been held at the following locations:

The growing size of the unofficial event at UC Santa Cruz caused the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs to send an e-mail to parents in 2009 stating: "The growth in scale of this activity has become a concern for both the university and surrounding community."[34]


Events have also occurred in London, United Kingdom, in Hyde Park;[35] University of Colorado Boulder;[36][37] and Dunedin, New Zealand, at the University of Otago.[38][39][40][41][42][43]

Other impacts[edit]

Traffic safety[edit]

Using 25 years of U.S. national data, one study found a 12% increase in the risk of fatal motor vehicle crash between 4:20 p.m. and midnight on April 20th compared to identical time intervals on control days. Among the subgroup of drivers less than 21 years of age, risks were 38% higher on April 20th than on control days.[44]

Stolen signs[edit]

Signs bearing the number "420" have been frequently stolen. In Colorado, the Colorado Department of Transportation replaced the Mile Marker 420 sign on I-70 east of Denver with one reading 419.99 in an attempt to stop the thievery.[45] Though the sign post should appear just east of Flagler, CO, one travelling east from exit 419 now only sees mile post 419, and then 2 miles farther sees mile post 421 (as noted after July 2017). The Idaho Department of Transportation (ITD) replaced the Mile Marker 420 sign on U.S. Highway 95, just south of Coeur d'Alene, with Mile Marker 419.9.[46] In Goodhue County, Minnesota, officials have changed "420 St" street signs to "42x St".[47]


In 2003, California Senate Bill 420 was introduced to regulate medical marijuana use, in deliberate reference to the status of 420 in marijuana culture. An unsuccessful 2010 bill to legalize cannabis in Guam was called Bill 420.[48]

Dial-code of the Czech Republic[edit]

As the country dial-code of the Czech Republic is 420 and the rate of cannabis use there is one of the highest in the world, some foreign visitors think that cannabis is legal in this Central European country. However, smoking cannabis outdoors will be fined and having more than 10 grams of marijuana is considered a crime.[49] In 2016, Snoop Dogg displayed his knowledge of marijuana on the game show $100,000 Pyramid. Snoop replied without delay that the country code for the Czech Republic is 420.[50] He would later use the number as one of the dollar amounts in the "Face the Devil" bonus round of his 2017 reboot of the classic American TV game show The Joker's Wild which has itself been renewed for a second season as of January 2018.


Following the success of Washington D.C.'s Initiative 71 to legalize cannabis in 2014, Mayor Muriel Bowser granted license plate number "420" to the campaign's leader, Adam Eidinger.[51]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Daily Independent Journal from San Rafael, California". November 20, 1954. Retrieved 22 April 2017. 
  2. ^ Chronicle, San Francisco. The San Francisco Chronicle Reader. McGraw-Hill. Retrieved 22 April 2017. 
  3. ^ a b King, Matt (April 24, 2007). "Thousands at UCSC burn one to mark cannabis holiday". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Archived from the original on April 26, 2007. 
  4. ^ Olivia B. Waxman (2017-04-19). "What the Guys Who Coined '420' Think About Their Place in Marijuana History". Time. Retrieved 2017-04-20. 
  5. ^ "Stoner Chic Traces Origin To San Rafael – Snickering high schoolers brought `420' into lexicon". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved April 4, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b McKinley, Jesse (April 19, 2009). "Marijuana Advocates Point to Signs of Change". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 18, 2010. Retrieved January 23, 2011. Mr. Hager said the significance of April 20 dates to a ritual begun in the early 1970s in which a group of Northern California teenagers smoked cannabis every day at 4:20 p.m. Word of the ritual spread and expanded to a yearly event in various places. Soon, cannabis aficionados were using "420" as a code for smoking and using it as a sign-off on flyers for concerts where the drug would be plentiful. In recent years, the April 20 events have become so widespread that several colleges have discouraged students from participating. 
  7. ^ a b High Times (21 March 2012). The Official High Times Cannabis Cookbook: More Than 50 Irresistible Recipes That Will Get You High. Chronicle Books. pp. 97–. ISBN 978-1-4521-0133-0. Retrieved 19 April 2012. 
  8. ^ "High Expectations: Marketers Hope for Buzz on 4/20". The Wall Street Journal. April 20, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Grim, Ryan (April 20, 2009). "What 420 Means: The True Story Behind Stoners' Favorite Number". The Huffington Post. Retrieved January 23, 2011. 
  10. ^ a b Grim, Ryan (April 20, 2010). "420 Meaning: The True Story Of How April 20 Became 'Weed Day'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved January 23, 2011. 
  11. ^ Alyssa Pereira (April 20, 2016). "Local originators of term 420 solve 45-year-old mystery". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  12. ^ Edison, Mike (2009-05-12). I Have Fun Everywhere I Go: Savage Tales of Pot, Porn, Punk Rock, Pro Wrestling, Talking Apes, Evil Bosses, Dirty Blues, American Heroes, and the Most Notorious Magazines in the World. Faber & Faber. pp. 207–. ISBN 978-0-86547-903-6. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  13. ^ a b "Stoner Smart, or Stoner Stupid?". High Times. 2008. Archived from the original on 2012-05-14. Retrieved 2012-04-20. 
  14. ^ Halnon, Karen Bettez (11 April 2005). "The power of 420". Archived from the original on 13 May 2013. 
  15. ^ "420 event lists". 
  16. ^ "How marijuana's high holiday came to be". New York Post. 20 April 2017. Retrieved 22 April 2017. 
  17. ^ Gayle, Damien (19 April 2015). "Thousands of cannabis users roll up in Hyde Park for annual 4/20 event". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 April 2017. 
  18. ^ "Marijuana's big day is here: '420' celebrations ready to roll". USA TODAY. Retrieved 22 April 2017. 
  19. ^ "Does 4/20 Still Matter?". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 22 April 2017. 
  20. ^ "Annual 420 pot rally will be more celebration than protest: Organizers". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 22 April 2017. 
  21. ^ "A Huge Turn Out for 420 Day on Hippie Hill in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park " San Francisco Citizen". Sfcitizen.com. 2010-04-20. Archived from the original on 30 April 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-20. 
  22. ^ CU's 4/20 pot smoke-out draws crowd of 10,000 : CU News.
  23. ^ "Medical marijuana expected to give momentum to CU-Boulder 4/20 event – Boulder Daily Camera". Dailycamera.com. Archived from the original on 30 April 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-20. 
  24. ^ "Pot activists to light up on Hill". Cnews.canoe.ca. Retrieved 2011-04-20. 
  25. ^ "Ottawa's Parliament Hill just one site for planned 4/20 protest". Digitaljournal.com. Archived from the original on 11 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-20. 
  26. ^ "420 Day- Cannabis Festival". samesun.com Samesun Nation Travel Blog. Retrieved 2011-04-20. 
  27. ^ "Canada's marijuana activists unite against American-style drug laws – 420 vote mobs to be held in over 10 cities across Canada on April 20th". newswire.ca CNW Group. Archived from the original on 2012-09-07. Retrieved 2011-04-20. 
  28. ^ "Hundreds of Tokers Flood Alberta Legislature in Protest to Push for Legalization of Marijuana". Retrieved 2013-04-22. 
  29. ^ Hall, Neal (May 2, 2009). "Thousands of marijuana smokers gather in Vancouver to celebrate "420"". The Vancouver Sun. Archived from the original on September 10, 2014. Retrieved September 30, 2009. 
  30. ^ "Marijuana protest planned for the Vancouver Art Gallery despite 4/20 moving to Sunset Beach". 19 April 2016. 
  31. ^ Johnson, Lisa (20 April 2016). "4/20 pot rally draws tens of thousands in Vancouver". CBC News. Retrieved 20 April 2016. 
  32. ^ Davies, Pete (21 April 2010). "Washington Square Gets Its Grit Back on 420 Day - Curbed NY". Curbed. Retrieved 7 January 2018. 
  33. ^ "Denver's new Mile High 420 Festival announces all-star lineup " Denver Post". denverpost.com. 2018-03-08. Retrieved 2018-03-14. 
  34. ^ Bookwalter, Genevieve (7 April 2009). "Mom and Dad now know about '4/20'". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Archived from the original on 10 April 2009. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  35. ^ Gayle, Damien (2016-04-21). "Police make 20 arrests at cannabis picnic in London's Hyde Park". the Guardian. Retrieved 2016-05-05. 
  36. ^ Johnson, Gene. "How 4/20 ... grew ... into a 'holiday'". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 22 April 2017. 
  37. ^ "Denver 420 event will be a mix of marijuana politics and celebration". Retrieved 22 April 2017. 
  38. ^ Porteous, Debbie (June 12, 2008). "Police swoop on cannabis protest". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved March 31, 2009. 
  39. ^ "420 Protest". Channel 9 News Dunedin. February 22, 2008. Archived from the original on 22 October 2008. Retrieved October 7, 2008. 
  40. ^ Porteous, Debbie (July 11, 2008). "Campus arrests follow marijuana complaints (+ video)". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved April 22, 2009. 
  41. ^ Rudd, Allison (September 26, 2008). "Moore's appeal rejected". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved April 22, 2009. 
  42. ^ Rudd, Allison (July 22, 2008). "Lack of quorum foils cannabis vote". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved April 22, 2009. 
  43. ^ Rudd, Allison (September 20, 2008). "OUSA general meeting promises controversy". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved April 22, 2009. 
  44. ^ Staples JA, Redelmeier DA. The April 20 Cannabis Celebration and Fatal Traffic Crashes in the United States. JAMA Internal Medicine 2018 Feb 12 doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.8298. [Epub ahead of print]. Accessed 8 March 2018 at https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2672202?redirect=true.
  45. ^ "State alters 420 MM sign to thwart thieves". KUSA-TV. Retrieved January 11, 2014. 
  46. ^ "Idaho replaces mile marker 420 with 419.9 to thwart stoners". KTVB. Retrieved August 18, 2015. 
  47. ^ "County finds fix for missing 420 signs". Post-Bulletin. Retrieved July 20, 2015. 
  48. ^ Only one shows up for pot bill (2010-07-15). "Only one shows up for pot bill". Mvguam.com. Retrieved 2015-07-15. 
  49. ^ "5 Myths About Cannabis In The Czech Republic". 420 Meta. 9 May 2016. 
  50. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Snoop Dogg Shows Off His Impressive Marijuana Knowledge With Martha Stewart on '$100,000 Pyramid'". Entertainment Tonight. 
  51. ^ "D.C. mayor offers pot activist Tag 420 for his efforts". Washington Post. 

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