Famously a popular day for cannabis fans, 420 is the number we all associate with weed culture. Aside from the fun of lighting up with friends, here are a few facts about why April 20th is a semi-regular cannabis holiday.

To give you the whole story, we’ll step back in time a bit to 1971. 

The Kids That Started It All

In 1971, five high school kids in San Rafael, California, coined the phrase “4:20” to describe a scheme to find an abandoned cannabis crop using a treasure map. Whoever said treasure maps were a thing of the past must have missed the news of this cannabis booty!

Dubbed ‘The Waldos’ because their usual hangout spot was a wall outside the school, the five students—Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich— designated the Louis Pasteur statue on the grounds of San Rafael High School as their meeting place and 4:20 pm as their meeting time. The Waldos used the expression “4:20 Louis” as a code to talk about their hunt for hidden cannabis. 

As time went on and after repeated futile attempts to locate the crop, the gang modified their term to “4:20,” which later became a code word for cannabis consumption among the youths.

The Rise of Today’s Weed Culture

The earliest published mention of 4:20 to mean smoking cannabis and the first 4/20 celebration was in the May 1991 issue of the High Times, and the link to the Waldos appeared in December 1998. 

After “Waldo” Reddix became a roadie for the Grateful Dead’s bassist, Phil Lesh, the phrase’s early introduction to Grateful Dead fans spread around the scene quickly. The band and fans campaigned for 4:20 pm to be the socially acceptable time of day to ingest cannabis, and from there, the number 4.20 went on to become more and more associated with weed.

An International Counterculture Holiday

From code and hidden maps to the modern-day, cannabis has been a symbol of ‘against the man’ for decades. Nowadays, people gather to celebrate and use cannabis on April 20th, which has become an international counterculture holiday. Many of these public gatherings are political in nature, campaigning for cannabis liberalization and legalization.

Its illegal status in the US only went through recent changes. Still, with weed for personal use legalized in 18 states and medically approved in 37, the culture of cannabis has also gone through some significant changes.

From Swimming Upstream to Mainstream

In a near-perfect 180-degree turn, cannabis has shifted from taboo to commercial! A smoke shop is just around the corner, and advertisements feature clever wording to encourage cannabis customers. 

While many discussions can be had about the effect of decriminalizing weed, the ability for those whose medical needs can be more easily managed with cannabis can breathe a little easier today. A decade or two ago, the options were nearly nonexistent for many with medical conditions like seizures, anxiety, and chemo. 

A Few Fun Facts

There’s a popular misconception that 420 was the California police or penal code for marijuana, but there’s no evidence to back that up.

Besides that, many signs with the number 420 have been stolen repeatedly in the United States. The appeal is evident, as many probably do it for the laughs or to celebrate the ‘holiday.’  

In an attempt to discourage these types of robbery, the Colorado Department of Transportation replaced the Mile Marker 420 sign on I-70 east of Denver with one reading 419.99; however, the 419.99 sign’s mythology has led to it being stolen as well as becoming a tourist attraction. The signs are still routinely stolen or marked as missing, even in 2019.

According to The Washington Post, the United States now has eleven 420 mile signs, three of which have been replaced and one that has been stolen and not replaced. 

In fun legal news, California Senate Bill 420 (known as the Medical Marijuana Program Act) was a bill introduced by John Vasconcellos of the California State Senate, and it was subsequently passed by the California State Legislature and was signed by Governor Gray Davis in 2003.


From the couch to the doctor’s office, happy 4/20! Make whatever celebration out of the day you deem best, and look through Green Kong’s inventory to try something new!