It’s almost time for 420, the international holiday that’s been dubbed the
High Holiday of cannabis culture. It’s the day when cannabis connoisseurs around the world gather to celebrate and enjoy all things canna-related. But how did 420 start, and who decided that April 20 is the day to break out the bong? It’s a story that was shrouded in myth and mystery for decades, but there’s finally a definitive story for the origin of 420.
420 Myths and Misses
Before we get to the origin story, let’s debunk a few of the most persistent myths about what 420 means and how it came to be associated with cannabis. Like with most slang in common usage, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly where the term “420” got its start. The phrase has been around for decades — in fact, 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of its birth — and over the years, a lot of myths have grown up about what it means, where it came from, and why it became so popular. These are just a few of the debunked 420 origin stories:
- 420 is not the California police radio call code for a marijuana bust or the section of the
California penal code that refers to cannabis.
- It has nothing to do with
Hitler’s birthday even though he was born on that day.
- Nor does it have anything to do with
Bob Marley, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison.
- Bob Dylan denies that 420 comes from his so-called stoner anthem,
“Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” It was recorded in 1966, and the fact that 12 times 35 equals 420 is purely coincidental. According to Dylan, the song isn’t even about marijuana.
The High School Kids, the Treasure Map and the Grateful Dead
The true story of how all things 420 became connected to cannabis has a much more mundane — and at the same time fantastical — explanation. It all started with a group of kids who attended San Rafael High School in San Rafael, California, in 1971. They called themselves the Waldos and would meet at a statue of Louis Pasteur to smoke at — you guessed it — 4:20 in the afternoon, after classes were out for the day. The phrase 4:20 Louie became their code for getting together to get high.
After high school, one of them scored a job as a roadie for the Grateful Dead. The Waldos would attend concerts and pass around flyers inviting others to meet up with them at 4:20. The “code” caught on, perhaps spurred on when a band member found one of the flyers and announced it from the stage. The rest, as they say, is history.
Five Ways To Celebrate 420
If you’ve never celebrated 420 before — or if you’re looking for a new experience to heighten your enjoyment of the holiday, you’re in luck. The easing of restrictions on cannabis has birthed a whole new field of cannabis-infused leisure businesses to help you indulge in safe, welcoming environments. These are just a few of the ways you can expand your experience — and experience some of your favorite activities in a new way.
Note: In 2021, many areas of the country are still operating under COVID-19 restrictions. Check with the business operators for any limitations or special requirements for their events.
1. Book a Cannabis Tour
Want to learn more about the cannabis scene in your area?
Cannabis Tours, hosted in 420-welcoming cities around the country, maintain listings of cannabis-friendly hotels, restaurants and activities to help you celebrate. For locals,
Boston Cannabis Tours offers both group and private tours of the local scene, including visits at dispensaries, grow operations and restaurants, with stops along the way for you to appreciate and indulge in some high-quality bud.
2. Host an Infused Dinner Party
Since cannabis is a well-known appetite stimulant — munchies, anyone? — it’s no surprise that foodies and flower seem to fit naturally together. If you’re a fan of cooking shows, you may have caught “Cooked with Cannabis” or “Cooking on High,” two Netflix shows that feature chefs preparing mouthwatering marijuana-infused dishes. Cannabis cuisine takes edibles to a
higher level, one that you can enjoy at catered dinner parties hosted by you.
3. Paint an Inspired Work of Art
Puff and paint parties invite you to unleash your creativity in a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere. You can host and create your own —
paint party kits from Etsy make the planning and setup easy — or find a local artist who offers paint and puff parties, either in person or virtually.
4. Activities To Enjoy With Friends on 420
Celebrating with friends can be a great bonding experience, especially if you plan some activities that are more fun when you’re relaxed. A few suggestions for your backyard festivities include:
- A game of giant Jenga.
- Screen a movie on the garage wall — Rolling Stone has a great list of
- Set up a coloring table.
- Create a rest area with lots of pillows and comfy blankets.
- Karaoke! Here’s a
420-inspired playlist, or curate your own.
5. Prepare Yourself for the Experience
If you’re a relative novice or if you’re trying a
new method or strain for the first time, take some time to get familiar with your own body’s reactions to it. This is especially important if you’re planning to partake and celebrate in a crowd. Check out the descriptions of the various strains on the dispensary website and choose one that matches the mood you want to set. If you order in advance, you can try a test run beforehand. Oh, and while you’re at it, stock up on snack foods and keep water nearby to combat any dry mouth.
As with any experience, the key is to know yourself, know your limits and know your flower. If you’re ingesting for the first time, remember to start low and go slow, and surround yourself with friends who can match and watch your vibe. If you need help making choices or have questions, our helpful and knowledgeable dispensary staff are always happy to lend a hand.
Deb Powers is a Massachusetts freelance writer who has been writing about cannabis, wellness and related topics for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in Civilized. and on numerous industry blogs and websites.
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