Celebrating 420: The History Behind April 20

19 April 2021
Celebrating April 20 is very popular amongst weed lovers, but do you really know why the number is associated with cannabis?
19 April 2021
10 min read
Celebrating 420: The History Behind April 20

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  • 1. The history behind 4/20 day
  • 1. a. Myth #1: police radio code
  • 1. b. Myth #2: number of compounds found in cannabis
  • 1. c. Myth #3: penal code section
  • 1. d. Myth #4: the date of bob marley’s death
  • 2. The real story of 4/20 day
  • 3. How did 420 get known worldwide?
  • 4. How is 4/20 celebrated around the world?
  • 4. a. 4/20 public celebrations
  • 4. b. Festivals
  • 4. c. Tips to enjoy your 4/20 celebration
  • 5. How to celebrate 4/20 at home
  • 5. a. Friends, games, movies
  • 5. b. Online smoke sessions
  • 6. In conclusion

For a long time 420 has been related to cannabis, everybody knows 4:20 is the time to smoke up.

Today is April 20 (aka 4/20 day) and on this date, we all celebrate our love for this plant. But not many people actually know how and why this number became associated with smoking, so read on to learn everything you need to know. Every year cannabis retailers expect a 30% increase in sales; It’s estimated that, during this April 20th, stoners around the world will spend over $400.000 in legal cannabis which is more than 28.000kg of cannabis products (including extracts, edibles, and CBD), and, without taking into account the illegal market!

But this day isn’t just about smoking weed; This day marks how cannabis became more than just weed, encouraging legalization even more and celebrating cannabis culture all over the world. Here's how it all started and the original story behind the happiest day on Earth. 

1. The History Behind 4/20 Day

Well, everybody knows what the number “420” means; Four-twenty became slang in cannabis culture to refer to cannabis consumption or anything cannabis-related. Despite being known worldwide, no one really knows why 420 became related to weed. For years there were a lot of myths and speculations about the meaning and origins of 420, so if you’re one of them and want to know why and how 420 became what it is, here are the most believed myths and explanations that were proven to be incorrect.

Myth #1: Police radio code

For many years people talked about 420 being the police radio code for marijuana smoking in progress or the code for possession but this is obviously wrong as there is no 420 cannabis-related code in the police radio code.


Celebrating 420 myth #1: police radio code

One of the most common myths of 4/20 history, police radio code for "marijuana smoking in progress".

Despite not being cannabis-related as most people think, there are several 420 or similar radio codes used by the police in some cities, for example:



Police Department


Code Description
Las Vegas 420 Juvenile disturbance
San Francisco 420/420A/420B Homicide/Murder/manslaughter


As you can see, they have nothing to do with cannabis, there’s also another code that really has nothing to do with cannabis (other than the numbers in a different order) used by the Long Beach PD: Code 402b which is the code for “abandoned refrigerator”.

Myth #2: Number of compounds found in cannabis

One of the most believed theories (before more research was actually done) is that 420 is the number of compounds found in cannabis, again incorrect. Cannabis indeed has more than 400 compounds, but this was found by scientists recently so it’s highly unlikely for someone in the 1970s to have known this.

Myth #3: Penal code section

Another myth is 420 being the penal code section for cannabis use, this is also incorrect. Section 420 of the California penal code refers to obstructing entry on public land, up until 2004, there was no section specifically for cannabis use. However, on January 1 2004 the governor of California signed Bill 420 which regulates cannabis use for medical purposes, the 420 number was used for its existing connection and not the other way around.

Myth #4: The date of Bob Marley’s death

Some people started the rumor that April 20 was the date Bob Marley died and declared 4/20 as a commemorative date in honor of the legendary reggae artist. Others say that he was born on 4/20 but this theory has been disproved several times.


Celebrating 420: myth #4: the date of bob marley’s death

Bob Marley, Jamaican singer-songwriter was born on February 6, 1945 and died on May 11, 1981.

Since then, it’s been proved that Bob Marley was actually born on February 6, 1945, and died 36 years later he died on May 11, 1981 (a couple of weeks after April 20), making this rumor incorrect but definitely not taking away the fact that Bob Marley was and forever will be one of the biggest marijuana icons. 

2. The Real Story Of 4/20 Day

Having debunked all those myths, a couple of years ago a group of friends reached out telling the most probable and credible explanation up to this day, believed by many to be true. In 1971, a U.S. coast guard, in fear he would be busted, gave away a decent amount of cannabis to five students at the San Rafael High School in Marin County, California. His generosity was very much welcomed by the students and since then they would meet every day after school activities had ended, and smoke those buds.

They were constantly reminding each other during class “near the statue at 4:20 pm”, a phrase which after a while was reduced to just “4:20”. At that time it wasn’t so easy to get weed so they started to get popular with every group in the school, making 420 popular with all potheads in their high school.


Sebastian Good tells you all about myths and facts on how 420 became associated with Cannabis.

3. How Did 420 Get Known Worldwide?

You must be asking yourself, how from a simple code name in high school, 420 became known and used worldwide as an official term for smoking weed?

Well, one of the kid’s brothers personally knew the band Grateful Dead and arranged for him to work with them. After a while, all of the band’s staff started using the term and eventually it reached their fans. A couple of weeks before doing a show in Oakland, California a group of fans started handing out flyers inviting people to “smoke 420 on April 20 at 4:20”.


Celebrating 420: grateful dead concert

After handing out flyers by the fans of Grateful Dead and inviting people to “smoke 420 on April 20 at 4:20”, 420 got recognized by High Times reporter.

One flyer ended up in the hands of Steve Bloom, a reporter for the High Times magazine at the moment. It caught his attention and he continued to reference the number in his articles since then. Not long after, the number became known worldwide, associated with weed and cannabis culture. It was even adopted by pop culture and being used in popular movies and songs.

Nowadays we use April 20 to celebrate cannabis culture and hope for legalization worldwide.

4. How Is 4/20 Celebrated Around The World?

4/20 was already being celebrated before being popularized by High Times magazine, as mentioned before, the group of friends that actually came up with 420 as slang for cannabis was already passing it from mouth to mouth so despite not being celebrated all over the worlds as nowadays. This day it was already a popular event on local college campuses and city parks, celebrated in favor of cannabis legalization, cannabis consumption and all things cannabis-related, such as it is nowadays.

4/20 Public Celebrations

April 20 is celebrated differently across the globe but with one thing in common: cannabis consumption. In cities where cannabis is legal, people from all around gather in local parks and celebrate marijuana by having a huge smoke session. For example, in New York people gather in Washington Square Park, in Denver 4/20 takes place in the Civic Center Park and in San Francisco, Hippie Hill turns into the biggest sesh you’ve ever seen!

Now, in places where cannabis is still illegal it may be hard to get together with fellow cannabis consumers and actually smoke weed because you may get in trouble, so usually, people get together and protest to let the government know that they’re still fighting for legalization and their right to consume cannabis. 


Celebrating 420: celebrations around the world

420 is celebrated all over the world although it may be a huge smoke session or a protest, depending on the country.

In Sidney City cannabis enthusiasts march through Kings Cross in favor of their right to consume and buy cannabis legally whereas in London (despite being illegal) people protest by smoking weed in Hyde Park and, in Brazil there’s the “Marcha da Maconha“ (something like March for cannabis) which takes place in main avenues across all the country, protesting in favor of legalization and their right to grow their own weed at home.


There are multiple festivals in the cities mentioned above and all over the world, so if you’re ever around and want to have a good time, make sure you check the following 4/20 festivals:

420 Hippie Hill Festival - United States

The festival offers several free music shows, events and a huge smoke session with more than 15.000 smoking and celebrating together. This is a free event, so there’s no need to buy a ticket or anything else, just stock up and visit the Hippie Hill Festival in the historic Golden Gate Park.

Mile High 420 Festival - United States

The Mile High 420 Festival is the largest free 420 festival, where thousands of cannabis enthusiasts gather in Denver City Park to celebrate the cannabis culture and community. This festival brings advocates from all over the world to celebrate the cannabis culture and industry. With over 50.000 every year, this festival is 100% free and a must for all cannabis lovers.



Celebrating 420: 420 day in Denver

April 20 in Denver.

420 Vancouver Smoke Out Festival - Canada

The 420 Smoke Out Festival is a cannabis festival that basically celebrates cannabis culture, legalization and the plant itself. This event started years ago when cannabis was illegal but now, after legalization, the festival became one of the biggest festivals in Canada, giving space for other festivals to appear in several other cities.

420 Get-Together in Hyde Park - UK

Despite being still illegal, many stoners gather at Hyde Park at 4:10 pm (or even earlier) to count down until 4:20 pm. Thousands of stoners, sparking suspicious-looking “cigarettes” (aka joints); If you’re planning on going just remember, cannabis is illegal and anyone found in possession of drugs faces arrest and prosecution.


Celebrating 420: 420 day in Hyde Park

Despite still being illegal, people gather together in Hyde Park to celebrate 420.

Marcha Da Maconha - Brazil

A Marcha da Maconha is an event that takes place in more than 12 cities around Brazil. This march gathers more than 2.000 cannabis enthusiasts per city who march on the main avenues in favor of changes in the cannabis laws; Not only in favor of legalization but also in the regulation of trade and use. 

Tips to enjoy your 4/20 celebration

If by any chance this is your first 4/20 celebration, here are a couple of tips that’ll make your (and other’s) celebration unforgettable:

Plan Ahead

Most dispensaries will be offering great deals before and on 4/20 so make sure you’re stocked up and ready to go, you don’t want to be stuck in a line waiting to buy weed when everyone is already celebrating.

Consume in moderation

April 20 is a time to be happy and celebrate so respect your limits, if you’re an avid consumer you most surely know how much is too much so take it easy and enjoy.


Celebrating 420: consume in moderation

Consume in moderation and have a bottle of water ready just in case!

There’s no need to smoke all your weed at once so start slowly and have a bottle of water and a chocolate bar just in case you get “zombified”.

Respect those who don’t smoke

Not everyone celebrating 4/20 smokes weed; Believe it or not, there are lots of people who don’t consume cannabis but support the legalization so be respectful and, when smoking, try to stay away from families with kids.

Don’t drive high

Driving under the influence is still not allowed, even in places where cannabis is legal and the police will surely be patrolling the areas where 4/20 celebrations are being held, so make sure you get a taxi or walk home, just don’t get in trouble!

5. How To Celebrate 4/20 At Home

If unfortunately, you cannot travel at the moment (or you just don’t want to leave home), don’t get discouraged, there’s a lot of good entertainment for everyone's liking.

Friends, games, movies

There are lots of different things you can do at home, so get together and have everything ready for 4:20 pm. It really doesn't matter how you celebrate as long as you celebrate and have fun with your friends.


Celebrating 420: friends, games and movies

April 20 is time to celebrate, it doesn't matter how you do it, just do it!

For those who will be staying home, here are a couple of weed games that you can play with your friends:

  • Joint rolling competitions;
  • Weed Jenga;
  • Watch a stoner movie (like Pineapple Express);
  • And Weed Never Have I Ever.

If you don’t want to play games all day long, there are virtual events that you can watch with your friends from the comfort of your own sofa, so here are a couple of online sessions that you may like and will surely entertain you all day long.

Online Smoke Sessions 

Starting with weed icon Snoop Dogg celebrating the worldwide digital release of Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. Enjoy this 420 classic with a live stream and a DJ set at 4:20 pm!

Also, don’t forget that the High Times Cannabis Cup People’s Choice Edition Michigan will be opening up the judging process, offering 224 kits per category so you can be the judge and help choose the best flower, edible, concentrate, vape pen or topical.


Celebrating 420: the chronic and cannabis cup

Make sure to participate in the worldwide digital release of the chronic and the Michigan Cannabis Cup.

If you’re more of a festival type of person, make sure to tune in to the HighStream 420 Festival which will bring together two huge cannabis events: The National Cannabis Festival and The Emerald Cup. Offering interesting talks and panels, discussing current cannabis legislation topics, and much, much more!


Celebrating 420: highstream and higher together

Check out the Highstream and Higher Together festival.

Or party together with stoners from around the world along with Wiz Khalifa and several other cannabis artists in the Higher Together virtual smoke session, offering live smoke sessions, comedy acts, live music, and much more, starting at 4:20pm.

6. In Conclusion

There are several things you can do, get creative!  It really doesn’t matter how you celebrate it, just make sure you do it and enjoy 4/20 as much as possible. Now that you know a little bit more about cannabis culture, sit back, roll a big one and relax. We wish you a happy 4/20 day, stay out of trouble and keep on smoking!