420 is a number associated most heavily with cannabis, although it has a rather vague meaning. It’s used to refer to cannabis and the act of consuming the drug. It also denotes April 20, the international celebration of wildly popular substance.

Many people organize smoke-outs in local parks with friends or over with larger groups over social media. Others organize events with local businesses sponsoring and a music stage. The 420 Day is primarily a celebration of the drug and a day to have fun, relax and enjoy the associated culture. However it is also used as a sort of soft protest agaisnt the illegal nature of the drug in many places around the world. At least it is in countries where the substance is relatively tolerated.

Some of these 420 events are more serious than just enjoying cannabis and often focus on the on promoting legalization. The events are often promoted by local Cannabis Social Clubs, which encourage many members to attend. 

Occasionally, even politicians with liberal views on cannabis will speak at the events. Many people at the events light up a joint to show their disobedience towards the prohibition of cannabis. It happens 4:20 pm on 420 Day.

What does 420 have to do with Cannabis?

The story goes that 420 started with 5 high school students from San Rafael, California in 1971. These five students were Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz and Mark Gravich.

Louis Pasteur Statue outside San Rafael High School

The ‘Waldos,’ as they called themselves named after a wall they would hang out at close by, were the five students and friends who supposedly coined the phrase. Each day the students met after High School, most often at 4:20 pm near San Rafael High School’s Louis Pasteur statue. The Waldos were sometimes rumored to have found an abandoned cannabis crop in a nearby area. However, it was never located. Students would use the code number 420 to indicate a chance to meet for a quick smoke. And now 50 years later, the number 420 is also associated with cannabis around the globe.

Steven Hager, High Times’s editor, published the 420 story. An interview with Steve Hager explains more.


Certain corners of the music industry have had long associations with cannabis. Many musicians believe that cannabis can increase musical creativity. Many music fans find that cannabis can enhance the enjoyment of listening to music. There are many tracks that celebrate cannabis love and appreciation. Most famously and commonly asscoiated with Caribbean music, such as reggae, and rap music, more specifically west coast.

Celebrities & 420

Likewise the musicians that we tend to think of the most are Bob Marley and Snoop Dogg, although there are many more in and outside these genres. And it’s not just in music, celebrities from all industries are open about their cannabis use. Celebrity cannabis users, or at least the number who are open about it, have increased dramatically in the last decade or two. There are many actors, TV hosts, writers, and social media stars who openly discuss their cannabis use. It’s impossible to list all of them, but Acclaim Magazine made a bold attempt to list the top 420 influential people on cannabis.

Stoner Movies

The stoner movie has become a staple of typical cannabis culture. These movies are often funny and entertaining with a central plot that revolves around cannabis. The stoner movie genre has a rather expansive library that has been growing since the 70s. 54 stoner movies have been listed and rated by IMDb’s professional movie reviewers. Pineapple Express and Half Baked are some of the most well-known. High Times magazine also launched the Stony Awards, which are presented to artists who have made a significant contribution to cannabis

Stoner Movie Pineapple Express

420 Advocacy

Many cannabis activists use the 420 Day as an opportunity to raise awareness about the injustices faced by medical and recreational cannabis users. Seattle Hempfest, one of many 420 events all over the globe, is considered one of the largest, with more than 100,000 people attending. 

Vivian McPeak, one of the founders, stated that 420 Day is “half celebration and part call to action”. Many speakers at Hempfest take the opportunity to challenge prohibition laws by using this platform. The state of washington legalized recreational cannabis in 2013; making it the second state to do so after Colorado did the same the previous year. Since then several other states have followed suit.

Is 420 becoming too commercialised

Some cannabis enthusiasts find 420 Day a bit commercialized. Many cannabis companies offer special sales and offers on 420 Day. Many events are held around the globe to celebrate 420. Many dispensaries in countries that legalize cannabis, such as the USA and Canada offer great deals on 420. The fact that 420 Day has been commercialized is not surprising. It is not likely to change. However, 420 Day will always be a personal day to many, and one that will be around likely for as long as cannabis is.

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