The Meaning of 420 and How It Became National Weed Day


Many sources track the origins of national 420 day back to northern California, but don’t let that stop you from celebrating in Alaska! Thanks to progressive cannabis legislation, Alaska has become a leading source of cannabis culture. We’re anticipating a big celebration throughout the state this coming April. Learn more about 420 and how it became such a big deal throughout the United States, then decide how you’ll celebrate this year.

The History of 420: Roots

There have been a lot of different rumors about where the 420 phenomena originated, but some investigative journalism through the years may have finally nailed down the real roots. It all goes back to a group of five cannabis-loving high schoolers in San Rafael, California, near San Francisco. They called themselves the Waldos because their favorite meeting spot was near a statue along the wall outside the high school they attended. They’d meet there at a time when they could smoke without detection because school activities had ended: 4:20 p.m.

The group would smoke, hang out, and sometimes look for a cannabis crop that was rumored to have been abandoned in their area. They never found any green treasure but did create an international slang. 420 became their secret code for everything related to cannabis because they could say it in front of teachers and parents without attracting the wrong kind of attention.

The Rising Popularity of 420

420 became part of the lexicon for the Waldos and their friends, and their circle eventually expanded to include an influential force in the cannabis community. This little group had connections to the Grateful Dead themselves and used their secret term in front of the band. When the Dead left California to tour the country, they brought 420 with them. The Waldos’ slang quickly became one of the worst-kept secrets in cannabis culture.

Needless to say, the Grateful Dead are something of an authority when it comes to cannabis, so when they started using the term, their fans followed suit. The 420-movement started picking up steam and really hit its stride in the early 1990s with the help of High Times magazine. One of their reporters, Steven Bloom, was at a Grateful Dead concert when he saw a flyer about smoking 420 at 4:20 on 4/20.

Bloom passed this interesting tidbit to his editor, and the magazine ran with it. 4:20 p.m. started to become for cannabis what 5:00 p.m. is for alcohol, the socially agreed upon time to indulge. What started as an inside joke between five friends is now public knowledge. It’s safe to say the secret’s out, but luckily there’s no longer a need to be so coy (at least for Alaskan adults).

420 in the House (and Senate)

Even United States politicians are getting in on the 420 fun. There are several examples from throughout the years, but the most recent ones might also be some of the best. Congressional Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced a bill called the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act in January 2019, just in time to get it labeled as H.R. 420.

Not long after, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) filed the S. 420 bill in the United States Senate. This proposal seeks to de-schedule marijuana, create a permitting system for legal sales, and establish a national excise tax. In other words, this is another angle into removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and treating it more like alcohol.

These bills have widespread support among cannabis enthusiasts and offer the kind of progressive thinking you might expect from politicians out of Oregon. It was, after all, the first state to decriminalize cannabis, which it did in 1973. Now they’re escalating cannabis reform on a federal level.

Famous 4/20 Gatherings

As 4/20 became something of a national holiday, cannabis enthusiasts started organizing large gatherings. Some of these events have been legal, while others were intentionally illegal protests aimed at sparking discussion toward more progressive cannabis law. Here are just some of the places people around the world have participated in cannabis-centric parties or protests on April 20th:

● The so-called “Hippie Hill” in Golden Gate Park near San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district

● Parliament Hill and Major’s Hill Park in Ottawa, Ontario

● Right on campus at the University of Colorado in Boulder

● Mount Royal monument in Montreal, Quebec

● Vancouver Art Gallery and Sunset Beach in Vancouver, British Columbia

● New York City, especially at Washington Square Park in Manhattan

● Hyde Park in London

● Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton, Alberta

● The University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand

● Civic Center Park’s Mile High 4/20 Festival in Denver

● The National Cannabis Festival in Washington D.C.

● The University of Ljubljana in Ljubljana, Slovenia

● On campus at University of California, Santa Cruz

The list above is only a small sample of where the world celebrates 4/20 on a large scale. In some communities, these large events have been frowned upon by some local residents or government bodies. For the most part, though, people appreciate the peaceful gatherings.

Some of the events above have even had instrumental contributions to the dialogue surrounding cannabis and its legal standing. Many popular gatherings from the list above offer participation from local vendors as well as sessions to educate the public and explore cannabis history.

4:20, 4/20, 420

Thanks to this number’s history as a meeting time, a national holiday, and a slang term, it can be used in a lot of various ways. April 20th has become something of a phenomenon in the United States and even some other places internationally, but you don’t have to wait to celebrate once a year. Many cannabis enthusiasts like to time their smoke sessions for 4:20 p.m. any day of the year, or even 4:20 a.m.– we’re not here to judge. 420 references surging even outside of date and time specifications, as you may notice people referring to themselves, their homes, or even their businesses as “420 friendly.”

4/20 Safety Considerations

Some data suggests that there are more traffic accidents than usual during the evening on 4/20. As with any holiday, it’s extremely important to celebrate responsibly. Designate a driver, call an Uber, or use public transportation. Cannabis is much more fun when everyone consumes it appropriately, and there’s no need to get behind the wheel– there are plenty of other ways to get to your favorite celebration. Safe, successful, enjoyable 4/20 celebrations also help keep the cannabis dialogue positive, so there’s no need to suck the mellow out of our most relaxing holiday. Do it big, and do it right!

How to Celebrate National Cannabis Day in Alaska

Celebrate 420 Day your way by finding your favorite cannabis products at Bad Gramm3r. As one of the leading dispensaries in Alaska, we offer a wide selection of flower, concentrates, edibles and more! Our experienced budtenders will walk you through the complete menu to make sure you’re fully stocked and ready for the best 420 yet. Contact us online if you have any questions, or come see us in person to start picking out your party supplies!