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420 (cannabis culture)

420 (cannabis culture)

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420, 4:20 or 4/20 refers to consumption of cannabis
Cannabis (drug)
Cannabis, also known as marijuana among many other names, refers to any number of preparations of the Cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug or for medicinal purposes. The English term marijuana comes from the Mexican Spanish word marihuana...

 and, by extension, a way to identify oneself with cannabis subculture
In sociology, anthropology and cultural studies, a subculture is a group of people with a culture which differentiates them from the larger culture to which they belong.- Definition :...

. The notable day for these is April 20.

Origins of terms

The term was allegedly coined by a group of teenagers in San Rafael, California
San Rafael, California
San Rafael is a city and the county seat of Marin County, California, United States. The city is located in the North Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area...

 in 1971. Calling themselves the Waldos, because "their chosen hang-out spot was a wall outside the school," the group first used the term in connection to a fall 1971 plan to search for an abandoned cannabis crop that they had learned about. The Waldos designated the Louis Pasteur
Louis Pasteur
Louis Pasteur was a French chemist and microbiologist born in Dole. He is remembered for his remarkable breakthroughs in the causes and preventions of diseases. His discoveries reduced mortality from puerperal fever, and he created the first vaccine for rabies and anthrax. His experiments...

 statue on the grounds of San Rafael High School
San Rafael High School
San Rafael High School is a coeducational public secondary school located at 185 Mission Avenue in San Rafael, California, United States.The school is part of the San Rafael City Schools school district...

 as their meeting place, and 4:20 p.m. as their meeting time. The Waldos referred to this plan with the phrase "4:20 Louis". Multiple failed attempts to find the crop eventually shortened their phrase to simply "4:20", which ultimately evolved into a codeword the teens used to mean pot-smoking in general.

High Times Creative Director Steven Hager
Steven Hager
Steven Hager, a writer, journalist, filmmaker, and counterculture and cannabis activist, was born May 25, 1951, in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, the son of Lowell P. Hager and Francis Erea Hager.-Early life and career:...

 was the first person to track down the Waldos and publish their account of the origins of the term. Hager wrote "Are You Stoner Smart or Stoner Stupid?" (October 1998) in which he called for 4:20 p.m. to be the socially accepted hour of the day to consume cannabis. "I believe 420 is a ritualization of cannabis use that holds deep meaning for our subculture," wrote Hager. "It also points us in a direction for the responsible use of cannabis."

Some also insist that the original meaning comes from Bob Dylan's song "Rainy Day Woman #12&35". Released in 1966, it pre-dates the 'Waldos' story by years. The tell-tale lyrics "But I would not feel so all alone--everybody must get stoned!" and the fact that 12 multiplied by 35 equals 420 points to the veracity of this origin.

April 20 observances

April 20 (4/20 in U.S. date notation) has evolved into a counterculture
Counterculture is a sociological term used to describe the values and norms of behavior of a cultural group, or subculture, that run counter to those of the social mainstream of the day, the cultural equivalent of political opposition. Counterculture can also be described as a group whose behavior...

 holiday, where people gather to celebrate and consume cannabis. Some events have a political nature to them, advocating for the decriminalization of non-medical cannabis in the United States.

New York

Thousands of people all over the tristate area gather together in Central Park New York City to take part in this day.

San Francisco

Every year thousands of people flock from all over California to San Francisco's Hippie Hill, in Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park, located in San Francisco, California, is a large urban park consisting of of public grounds. Configured as a rectangle, it is similar in shape but 20% larger than Central Park in New York, to which it is often compared. It is over three miles long east to west, and about half a...

 near the famous Haight-Ashbury district.

Tallahassee, Florida

Named the #2 most pot smoking city in the United States,
thousands observe 4/20 in Tallahassee. Some major places are the Florida State University
Florida State University
The Florida State University is a space-grant and sea-grant public university located in Tallahassee, Florida, United States. It is a comprehensive doctoral research university with medical programs and significant research activity as determined by the Carnegie Foundation...

 and Florida A & M University campuses, numerous Tallahassee greenway
-People:* Barney Greenway , British death metal vocalist* Brian Greenway , Canadian guitarist and vocalist* Chad Greenway , American football player* Francis Greenway , Australian architect...

s, and industrial district (All Saints/Railroad Square
Railroad Square
Railroad Square Art Park is a small district of Tallahassee, Florida, located off Railroad Avenue , filled with a variety of metal art sculptures and stores selling artwork and collectibles. Railroad Square is mainly known for its small locally owned shops and working artist studios, and its...


University of California, Santa Cruz

A celebration on April 20 takes place every year in the Porter College
Porter College
Benjamin F. Porter College, a residential college at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is located on the lower west side of the university, south of Kresge College and north of College Eight. The college was founded in 1969 as College Five and formally dedicated on November 21, 1981...

 meadow at the University of California, Santa Cruz
University of California, Santa Cruz
The University of California, Santa Cruz, also known as UC Santa Cruz or UCSC, is a public, collegiate university; one of ten campuses in the University of California...

. The event has grown during recent years after the city of Santa Cruz passed Measure K
Measure K
Measure K is an ordinance put on the city of Santa Cruz's annual ballot on November 6, 2006. It's purpose was to give marijuana violations the lowest priority for local law enforcement. All other offenses besides adult-marijuana offenses were put to a higher priority as well...

 in 2006, making marijuana a low-priority crime. Participants in the event are often confronted by religious anti-drug activists, yet these protesters are largely ignored.

University of Colorado, Boulder

A large celebration is held every year on the University of Colorado
University of Colorado System
The University of Colorado system is a system of public universities in Colorado consisting of three universities in four campuses: University of Colorado Boulder, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, and University of Colorado Denver in downtown Denver and at the Anschutz Medical Campus in...

's Boulder campus
University of Colorado at Boulder
The University of Colorado Boulder is a public research university located in Boulder, Colorado...

, with attendance reaching more than 11,000 in 2008, and over 25,000 attendees in 2011. This would make CU Boulder's celebration of the hopeful legalization of marijuana one of the largest such celebrations in the United States. University police have tried various methods to prevent the gathering, including photographing students participating in the event, but the crowd has grown every year. The university and police have taken a more hands-off approach since 2006, emphasizing event safety over possession citations. Recent growth of the medical marijuana industry in Colorado is expected to add momentum to future events.

On April 15, 2009, the Office of the Chancellor sent an e-mail to all CU students regarding the 2009 celebration of 4/20 stating that the event would debase "the reputation of your university and degree." The CU student newspaper disagreed with the Chancellor's analysis.

No possession tickets were issued at the 2009 event.

Ottawa, Ontario

Annually, on April 20, thousands of activists gather on Parliament Hill
Parliament Hill
Parliament Hill , colloquially known as The Hill, is an area of Crown land on the southern banks of the Ottawa River in downtown Ottawa, Ontario. Its Gothic revival suite of buildingsthe parliament buildings serves as the home of the Parliament of Canada and contains a number of architectural...

 and Major's Hill to look toward the peace tower as they join each other in smoking marijuana when the clock strikes 4:20. Police keep an eye on protesters to make sure the peace is kept within correlation to law.

Montréal, Québec

Every year on April 20, thousands of people gather at Mount Royal
Mount Royal
Mount Royal is a mountain in the city of Montreal, immediately west of downtown Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the city to which it gave its name.The mountain is part of the Monteregian Hills situated between the Laurentians and the Appalachians...

 monument to celebrate 4/20. Police don't make arrests, although they do make their presence known.

London, Ontario

Each year on 4/20 thousands gather at Victoria Park downtown to celebrate. Over 2,000 people joined the festivities in 2010 that included live music. London police made a presence but announced they were not going to lay any marijuana related charges. London is also the hometown of Canadian cannabis policy reform advocate Marc Emery
Marc Emery
Marc Scott Emery is a Canadian cannabis policy reform advocate, as well as a former cannabis seed seller. He is currently serving a five year sentence in a United States federal prison for selling cannabis seeds....


Toronto, Ontario

Every year on the first Saturday in May (in observance of 4/20), a march takes through the city streets in advocacy of legalizing marijuana. The march ends up at Queen's Park Circle just north of the Ontario Provincial Parliament to celebrate 4/20 where there are both vendors and entertainers. Though the event is police-patrolled, no tickets were issued in 2010 while over 30,000 people participated in the revelry.

There is also a Hashmob sponsored protest on April 20th, normally at Dundas Square, which is timed for 4:20pm.

Vancouver, British Columbia

On April 20, 2009, an estimated nearly 10,000 people gathered around the Vancouver Art Gallery
Vancouver Art Gallery
The Vancouver Art Gallery is the fifth-largest art gallery in Canada and the largest in Western Canada. It is located at 750 Hornby Street in Vancouver, British Columbia...

 to celebrate "420". The police did not attempt to make arrests. This event has taken place in Vancouver annually for many years, and the police are generally tolerant of all marijuana use on April 20, and most other days.


In London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, 420 protests are held every year; with the 2011 4/20 having the highest turnout for a number of years. On April 20, 2011 around 2,000 people attended 420London, situated in Hyde Park
Hyde Park, London
Hyde Park is one of the largest parks in central London, United Kingdom, and one of the Royal Parks of London, famous for its Speakers' Corner.The park is divided in two by the Serpentine...

 Speakers Corner. The event was marked by several speeches, notably from Peter Reynolds of the newly formed CLEAR
CLEAR campaign
Cannabis Law Reform is a United Kingdom political party which campaigns against cannabis prohibition...

 (Cannabis law reform) political party. Despite police presence throughout the event, which lasted around 5 hours, there was no police enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws and no arrests. During the peaceful gathering, a smoke cloud hung over Speakers Corner.


In Dunedin
Dunedin is the second-largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the principal city of the Otago Region. It is considered to be one of the four main urban centres of New Zealand for historic, cultural, and geographic reasons. Dunedin was the largest city by territorial land area until...

, New Zealand, members of Otago NORML
Otago University NORML is a pro cannabis law reform student club at the University of Otago, affiliated to the Otago University Students Association...

 and some students at University of Otago
University of Otago
The University of Otago in Dunedin is New Zealand's oldest university with over 22,000 students enrolled during 2010.The university has New Zealand's highest average research quality and in New Zealand is second only to the University of Auckland in the number of A rated academic researchers it...

 meet every Wednesday and Friday at 4:20 p.m. under a Walnut tree on the University's Union Lawn to smoke cannabis in defiance of New Zealand's cannabis law. There was considerable media and police interest in the '420' group in 2008, resulting in the arrest of a student and the issuance of trespass notices to members of the public at one of the 4:20 pm meetings. The group leader was arrested for cannabis possession at a university Market Day unrelated to the 4:20 meetings, but was later discharged without conviction on all charges. The group celebrated their 5th anniversary on 11 September 2009.

See also

  • Legality of cannabis by country
  • Religious and spiritual use of cannabis
  • Cannabis legalization in Canada
    Cannabis legalization in Canada
    The legal status of cannabis in Canada is under dispute. Superior and appellate courts in Ontario have repeatedly declared Canada's marijuana laws to be of no force and effect. However, challenges to marijuana laws at the federal level have not resulted in the deletion of the appropriate articles...

  • Cannabis in the United Kingdom
    Cannabis in the United Kingdom
    Cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in the United Kingdom. It is a plant which is not native to the British Isles but one that was probably introduced from Continental Europe towards the end of the Roman occupation...

  • Cannabis in the United States
    Cannabis in the United States
    The use, sale and possession of cannabis in the United States is illegal under federal law. However, some states have created exemptions for medical cannabis use....

  • Drug subculture
    Drug subculture
    Drug subcultures are examples of countercultures, which are primarily defined by recreational drug use.Drug subcultures are groups of people united by a common understanding of the meaning and value of the incorporation into one's life of the drug in question...

  • Hash Bash
    Hash Bash
    Hash Bash is an annual event held in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the first Saturday of April at high noon on the University of Michigan Diag. A collection of speeches, live music, street vending and occasional civil disobedience are centered on the goal of reforming federal, state, and local marijuana...

     (Early April, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)
  • 420 (Family Guy)
    420 (Family Guy)
    "420" is the twelfth episode of the seventh season of the animated comedy series Family Guy. It premiered on Fox in the United States on April 19, 2009. The title of the episode is a reference to the term "420" used in cannabis culture; "420" premiered the day before April 20 , on which a...

External links