How April 20th Became a Cannabis Holiday

April 20th, or 4/20, has emerged as a significant day in cannabis culture, drawing enthusiasts together for festivities that celebrate the plant. This day is marked by music festivals enveloped in smoke, special deals on munchies, and discounts at dispensaries across the United States.

Where Did The Term '420' Come From?

The origins of "420" were once shrouded in mystery. Some believed it referred to a police code for possession, or was derived from Bob Dylan's song "Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35." However, the consensus now points to a group of friends from San Rafael High School in California, known as "the Waldos."


Legend has it that a friend's brother planted cannabis in the woods at Point Reyes and shared a map with the Waldos to harvest it. They would meet at 4:20 p.m. near a statue of chemist Louis Pasteur, sparking the term "420" to signify their plan. Though they never found the crop, "420" entered their vocabulary and eventually became synonymous with cannabis culture.


Spread of '420'

One of the Waldos had a brother who was friends with Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh, further popularizing the term within the band's community. By the early 1990s, a flier circulating at a Dead concert solidified "420" as a rallying call for cannabis enthusiasts, eventually turning April 20th into a widely recognized holiday.


Celebrations and Traditions

Modern-day 4/20 festivities vary in scale. San Francisco's Hippie Hill draws thousands, while Seattle offers "dank double features" at movie theaters and pottery parties in Boston provide an opportunity to craft cannabis paraphernalia. Pot shops offer discounts, and breweries release special beers in honor of the occasion.

Political Landscape

Despite increasing legalization at the state level, progress on federal cannabis reform has been sluggish. Congress has struggled to agree on modest reforms, leaving many cannabis businesses dealing primarily in cash due to banking restrictions. President Joe Biden's administration has pardoned prior federal cannabis offenses, but advocates continue to push for broader reforms, including removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and addressing the impact of the drug war on communities of color.

As 4/20 rolls around again, it serves as a reminder of the evolving landscape of cannabis policy and culture in the United States.


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