If you’re reading this now, chances are you know of the celebrated stoner holiday affectionately known as ”420”. Heck, I’m sure most of you have participated in one.
For those of you who might not be aware, 420 takes place on April 20th every year, around the world. It is a day when weed smokers from all walks of life come together (or, stay at home) and smoke a fattie at 4:20pm, in a communal celebration of our bountiful herb. And when we say from around the world, we really mean it. Celebrations occur not only in Canada and the US, but globally from the UK, to New Zealand, Peru, South Africa, Brazil, and many more.
420 is a day, a time, a celebration, a legacy. But how and why did it begin in the first place? Though many have sparked a joint at 4:20pm on any given day, or gone to an event, few know the background behind this mysterious number. There are many rumours to be sure, but do you know the truth?
It all began in the 1970’s, in coastal California. Unsurprisingly, a group of teenagers nicknamed the “Waldo’s” began to use the code “420” as a signal to meet up at that time on a given day, to – you guessed it – smoke weed. But that’s not all they did. Rumour has it, they began these daily meetings not only to light up, but to go on certain adventures – most notably, to find a legendary cannabis plant allegedly planted nearby by a local member of the Coastguard. Apparently, they even have a treasure map. Pretty cool, huh? They never did find the plant, but it did spark the beginnings of what would later become a global movement.
Fast forward a few years, and we arrive at the Grateful Dead. Some members of the “Waldo’s” had connections to the group through family members, and thus were always hanging around at shows, and following the group around (like good stoners did back then). As the story goes, the “smoke weed at 420” memo spread quickly, and was used frequently amongst the group and their followers. This was solidified in a poster that was distributed in 1990 by the Deadheads calling all to smoke 420 at 420 on 420. This flyer was made famous not too long after by a reporter named Steve Bloom from the notorious cannabis publication called the High Times. This was later followed in 1998 by a statement made by the High Times, crediting the Waldos with this term.
Between the Grateful Dead and the High Times, word quickly spread about this now sacred time and date and became public knowledge. However, the story doesn’t stop there. 420 became not only a global celebration, but a protest as well, with the first one in Vancouver taking place as early as 1995 As most people are aware, cannabis is illegal in every country save two, Uruguay and now, Canada. April 20th is used to challenge public ideas and government policies around the world in relation to cannabis, and has won some battles. In 2003, the California state bill legalizing medical cannabis ended up being called SB 420 – now I’d call that a win.
What’s the future of 420? I’m sure as long as people are smoking weed, they will be smoking on 420, and as long as it is illegal, it will also be used at a national day of protest to help change our systems and laws. What’s even better though, is that as time goes on and more countries and states begin to legalize cannabis, we will end up with many more cannabis holidays to celebrate and smoke up publicly.