Updated on April 13, 2021.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
420 is the day that is essentially the most cherished holiday of the year in cannabis culture—celebrated for five decades as a code that few people (except maybe law enforcement) understood as a day when marijuana would be celebrated. As if we needed one single day when every day is a good day to smoke some weed?
But 420 is about much more than packing a bowl, rolling a joint or blunt, and wearing goofy clothes with cannabis leaves on them. It is part of our culture, national and global community. As we approach the 50th Anniversary of 420, here are five things you may not know about the significance and history of 420. We have got some dope facts to share.
1. Some Guys In California Started the 420 Celebration
Every community needs a day when they recognize what is unique and great about their tribe. For people who use cannabis, April 20th is the day. And even though it is hotly debated, it seems like the 420-celebration started with a group of friends in California.
The friends were teenagers in high school who mused that 4:20 was the perfect time of day after school. To get stoned, of course. But naturally, they could not talk about it openly. In 1971, even in California, views about cannabis were prohibitive. So, the code became a call to “puff puff pass” with their buddies somewhere safe. And then, it became so popular that it transformed into the holiday we celebrate today.
Thanks go to Steve Capper, Jeff Noel, Larry Schwartz, March Grayitch, and David Reddix for being the start and founders of the 420 cultural events annually. By the way, all the men still hang out and have gone on to realize professional success. So much for the theories about the “dumb and unambitious” pothead.
And you thought 420 came from a Grateful Dead song. Well, it was first referenced in a song by the Grateful Dead in pop culture. But only because the Grateful Dead bass player Phil Lesh had been friends with David Reddix for years. And it caught on with musicians.
2. Denver, Colorado, Had to Change Their Highway Signs
Weedmaps shared this interesting tidbit from Denver, Colorado. Apparently, in 2014, a frustrated Colorado Department of Transportation replaced a sign on Interstate 70. You see, the sign read “Mile 420” and, as you can imagine, the sign kept going missing. Over and over again. Kind of funny, unless you are the guy that has to keep putting up the new sign.
So, in 2014 the Colorado Department of Transportation changed the mile marker sign to Mile 419.99. Problem solved. There were no more sign thefts so that someone could put the 420 green signs up in their bedroom or home bar, except that any state that has an exit 420 sign has been subject to the same problem.
The Idaho Department of Transportation replaced their mile marker on U.S. Highway 95. The Washington State Department of Transportation also followed suit, with a 419.9 sign to avoid theft. And in Goodhue County, Minnesota, the town officials had to change the “420 Street” sign to read “42x St.” for obvious reasons. Definitely, one of the most coveted 420 themed street signs in America.
There is a 420 highway in Canada. The King’s Highway 420 connects the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) to downtown Niagara Falls. If you want to drive the 420, now you know where to head for a vacation. Also, cannabis is federally legalized in Canada. Everywhere.
3. The Celebration is Global
As much as Americans can take credit for the creation of the 4:20 or 420 observances, the weed cultural phenomenon has spread. It has been passed faster than pre-roll at a weed café in Amsterdam.
Celebrations for 4:20 are now observed across the United States, in Great Britain (UK), Australia, and Dunedin, New Zealand. Cannabis 4:20 celebrations have been held as far as Slovenia and Northern Cyprus. However, California and Colorado remain the two most popular states for tourists to enjoy 4:20 festivities.
4. Jimmy Carter Was Attacked By a Swimming Rabbit on 420
Way back in 1979, something funny happened that had tokers laughing across the United States. President Jimmy Carter encountered a swimming swamp rabbit while he was fishing in his hometown of Plains, Georgia.
There is no evidence that either the rabbit or the American President was under the influence of cannabis. But it was a goofy tale that created a different kind of buzz on the 1979 celebration of 420. And notoriety.
5. Siri Spilled the Beans About a Special Event Hosted by Apple in 2021
We always worry that our personal assistants are collecting and sharing our information with some massive data repository. Like, how many times you order DoorDash at 10:00 p.m. because you just smoked up and need a burger like yesterday.
In this case, Siri shared a secret. Or so it seems. It could be the best publicity stunt that Apple has ever pulled. Siri shared that Apple will be holding an event on 420 of this year to reveal the new iPad Pro models and the super anticipated AirTags trackers.
In terms of target marketing, it is brilliant. How many times have you been high and unable to find your wallet to order pizza? Or even your smartphone? The struggle is real! AirTags are these cool small devices that will allow you to locate those missing items and more. Stick one to your car, your bike, your backpack, your laptop… and track them from your couch if they go missing.
As we count down to the 50th anniversary of 4:20 or 420, make sure to visit your nearest medical dispensary website. Each dispensary (no matter what legalized state you live in) is going to have some pretty sweet promotions, discounts, and swag to celebrate, especially on this important and prestigious anniversary of American cannabis culture.