Every year, 4/20 grows into a larger spectacle of conspicuous cannabis consumption as legalization of herb brings this homegrown holiday into the mainstream.
Originating as an in-joke amongst a group of high school kids in Marin County, CA, the idea of 4:20 as an official time to smoke in solidarity with stoners all around the globe picked up traction and spread as an analog meme in the Grateful Dead subculture. In 1991, High Times editor Steve Bloom introduced “420” to the world, sparking widespread adoption of the symbol. Holding large, cannabis-centric events on April 20 was first inspired by impromptu smokeouts on college campuses including Santa Cruz, CA, and Boulder, CO.
Amanda Reiman, vice president, community relations, Flow Kana
Today, the holiday is used to push dispensary deals and discounts, and large-scale ticketed concerts, and rallies take place across the country. Over 20,000 people are estimated to attend the 420 Hippie Hill event in San Francisco, an event that’s been taking place since the 1970s.
Leafly surveyed longtime cannabis industry insiders and culture creators to see how they celebrate this auspicious holiday and what they think about its enduring appeal in a new era of legal weed.
1. How Do You Celebrate 4/20 (or 4:20)?
I get high. But since I get high every day, that’s not all that special, is it? But this time, I get high and really THINK about cannabis. How far we’ve come with legalization and normalization. How far we have yet to go. I let gratitude for the plant be a big part of my day.
—Dee Dussault, author, Ganja Yoga
Before legalization it was a time to feel free and fully into the culture. Things have changed since legalization, but the culture still thrives.
—Amanda Reiman, vice president, community relations, Flow Kana
I usually celebrate 4/20 by starting off with a fun wake and bake!
—Jeff the 420 Chef, author, The Ganja Gourmet
For the last 14 years in a row, I have had a camera in my hand at 4:20 on 4/20 instead of a joint. As a cannabis photographer, I absolutely LOVE that 4/20 is a workday, so you will never hear me complain about working on 4/20!
I usually text my friends “Happy 4:20” if I happen to notice it’s 4:20 during the day. If I’m able to I will always spark it up.
2. Has 4/20 Become Too Commercialized for You?
I don’t personally believe this is a bad thing. Cannabis use has become more normalized in California and across the world, and there are less people dealing with the ramifications of backward cannabis-related charges. If that means more commercialization of 4/20, then I’m all for it.
4/20 has long been used in conjunction with the “stoner” stereotype to sell products to a certain demographic. As soon as people knew what 4/20 was on a broad scale and it had proven appeal, it was bound to be commercialized.
With any industry, commercialization is what often brings legitimization, we just need to watch closely and make sure we don’t enter the Hallmark Aisle.
—Jeff the 420 Chef
To me, commercialization means we have won. I have always fought for marijuana to be treated the same as any other substance. To have it become mainstream and normalized was the goal and here we are.
No. I think it’s great that we have our own holiday, which has evolved to be both the Black Friday of cannabis and the ultimate party day for its users.
3. What’s Your Favorite 420 Reference in Pop Culture?
There used to be a direct flight out of LAX to Amsterdam at 4:20 p.m. I thought that one was cute.
The clocks in Pulp Fiction are all set to 4:20. According to legend, Quentin Tarantino wrote much of the script sitting around in various Amsterdam coffeeshops getting high and that’s his ode to the muse.
It’s when legislation gets named 420, by the studious, yet stony, clerks responsible for naming government bills. The first was in CA, with SB 420, late Sen. Vasconcelos’ law that accomplished goals like legalizing dispensaries, and current federal cannabis legislation, HR 420 and S 420.
4. Do You Think 4/20 Celebrations Present a Positive Image of Cannabis Consumers to the World?
Ngaio Bealum, comedian, co-host, Cooking On High
Yes, but I’d put away the gas masks. There are better ways to intake pot.
Yes, but so what if they don’t? A weedfest is the same as an Oktoberfest or a wine festival. Except there will be fewer fights and more snacks. Respectability politics (the idea that if we just dressed better and didn’t get stoned in front of people, we could have legal weed everywhere) never works. Be high. Be proud.
Certain 4/20 celebrations like private parties and elevated events can enhance the positive image of cannabis to the world, however, I think we have to be careful with some of the larger 4/20 celebrations, such as large public smokeouts, which can easily get out of hand and present an overinflated negative image of cannabis culture.
—Jeff the 420 Chef
Yes. We show the world that we are a peaceful culture and that we come from all walks of life. We are not a threat to society. Also, we’re not ashamed of our cannabis consumption.
I think that 4/20 celebrations present the OPPORTUNITY to present a positive image of cannabis consumers to the world … unfortunately, the opposite often occurs.
5. Is 4/20 Still Relevant in an Era When Legalization Has Moved Cannabis Steadily Towards the Mainstream?
Danny Danko, author, Cannabis: A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Marijuana
Yes, because history is always relevant. In my perfect world, 4/20 would become a day to remember the harms of prohibition, honor those who fought to end it, and smoke some amazing cannabis.
It will always be relevant and never more so than next year, when 4/20 will last a full month. I hope we can celebrate full federal legality and freedom for the healing flower at that time.
While we have made tremendous progress over the last 10 years, there is still so much work left to do. I think 4/20 is the perfect opportunity to remind everyone that people are still in prison for cannabis. Cannabis prohibition is still destroying lives.
Let’s keep celebrating the day, time, and number, as we remain magically united. The first flyers that went out about 420, passed out at a long ago Oakland Grateful Dead show, encouraged us all to smoke at 4:20, because no matter where we were it would unite us. I love that idea. Let’s smoke together, and be together, all throughout the day, your time zone and mine.