Most people know that 4:20 is an international holiday to celebrate and partake in cannabis consumption. However, not many people, even marijuana users, know the real origin behind connecting the number 420 to the cannabis plant itself. A few older stories describe how this national holiday and 4:20 as a special time of day became iconic to pot smokers. Read on for everything we know about how 4/20 became more than a typical April day.

The 420 Meaning

There are many theories surrounding the true origin and meaning of 420. Here are the most popular ones.

San Rafael High School

The most popular theory in Urban Dictionary comes from Marin Country, San Rafael, California, in 1971. Five students from San Rafael High School were good friends and cannabis aficionados. They began using 4:20 as a code word to meet at the Louis Pasteur statue on campus to search for an abandoned cannabis crop. This was their meeting time to then go to their chosen hang-out spot after extracurricular activities were finished. After several failed attempts, they never found the hidden crop, and the term evolved as a code to go to their meeting place for marijuana smoking.

That small group of high school students forever changed the marijuana culture and had no idea they were doing it. The term later became popularized by the band Grateful Dead after Dave Reddix and Steve Capper were hanging out backstage with Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh.

Bob Dylan

In the Bob Dylan song Rainy Day Women #12 and #35, he references the lyrics “Everybody must get Stoned,” and twelve multiplied by thirty-five does, in fact equal 420. This theory is quite a reach and was never confirmed by Dylan or anyone else.

Grateful Dead Flier

In Oakland, California, circa 1990, Steven Bloom, a reporter for High Times magazine, is handed a flier as he heads toward a Grateful Dead concert. The flier was strange and said to “meet at 4:20 on 4/20 for 420-ing in Marin County at the Bolinas Ridge sunset spot on Mt. Tamalpais.” Bloom later researched and wrote about 420 in the May 1991 issue of the magazine.

Plant Ingredients

One theory states that 420 is named after the number of chemical ingredients within a marijuana plant. However, science has debunked this theory stating that some plants have over 500 active chemicals, but there is no official number given as each has its own genetic makeup.

There are three main types of Cannabis:

Cannabis Indica

Cannabis Indica is commonly found growing in the dryer climates of the Middle East. They are short and bushy with large, dark green leaves. The buds tend to be much denser in Indica versus Sativa.

Indica strains have higher CBD content than Sativa. Most Indica weed contains an almost even amount of CBD and THC levels. Since Indica tends to be relaxing, they’re best for nighttime use due to the intense body high.  

Cannabis Sativa

Cannabis Sativa does well in warmer regions of the Earth and can thrive with high humidity levels. The typical locations where Sativa strains are grown are Central America, South America, and Southeast Asia. Sativa is tall and slender with thin, light green leaves. 

Many people report that smoking Sativa makes them feel energized, creative and focused. These psychological effects make Sativa strains best for daytime use because using them at night may cause insomnia due to the higher THC levels. 

Cannabis Hybrid

A hybrid is a combination of Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa. The amounts can vary depending on the strain, but there are ones that balance evenly, and on the flip side, there are Indica and Sativa dominant hybrid strains. The amount of each, andcannabinoid presence,will determine the effects you will experience.

Other Theories

  • Adolf Hitler’s birthday is April 20, 1889, so rumors circulated that it was a reference to him. But, there has been no connection made between the two and Hitler was not a known cannabis user.
  • Some thought it was a tribute to the birth or death of Bob Marley, but this was later denied due to both dates being different. He did knowingly celebrate cannabis culture and smoke pot on April 20.
  • The number has even been connected with a California criminal code thought to be in regard to cannabis laws. It turns out this code has nothing to do with weed and is about the obstruction of land instead. In 2003, the California legislature codified the medical marijuana law as Senate Bill 420.
  • All of the clocks on the set of the movie Pulp Fiction were said to be set to 4:20 during the entire filming process.

420 FAQs

Check below for answers to the most frequently asked 4:20 questions.

Where is 4:20 celebrated?

420 is celebrated all over the world. The largest celebration in the world occurs yearly in Denver, Colorado. However, there are now festivals all over the U.S. in cities like Washington D.C., Las Vegas, Portland, and San Francisco. Internationally there are many places that host events on April 20. Australia, London, Glasgow, Jamaica, Amsterdam, Canada, Scotland, and more celebrate it with their own festivals.

When was the holiday established?

Steven Hager of High Times popularized the story of the Waldos. The first High Times mention of a 4/20 holiday was in May 1991. It became widely celebrated in the late 1990s. 

What is a 420 girl?

This term will typically be found on dating or social media sites like TikTok and means that this person is a marijuana user or is open to that in a partner or friend.

Does 420 mean anything to the police?

Some say that 420 is a radio code for people smoking pot, but do police officers really use this word among themselves? Let’s set the record straight. Police code is used for speaking to each other when others may be able to listen through radio signals. While there is no official police code 420, cops definitely know what it means and that it refers to the cannabis plant and April 20.

The Impact of 420

April 20 has become an international holiday in many locations and one of the largest gatherings for weed other than the Cannabis Cup. It’s a day that marijuana lovers can gather to celebrate and consume cannabis, and that ritual spread further each year.

Many events double as political rallies to advocate for the decriminalization and legalization of cannabis. 

  • Of Seattle’s Hempfest, Vivian McPeak states that April 20 is “half celebration and half call to action.” 
  • Paul Birch called it an unstoppable global movement.
  • Steve DeAngelo, the founder of California’s Harborside Health Center, stated that “even if our activist work were complete, 420 morphs from a statement of conscience to a celebration of acceptance, a celebration of victory, a celebration of our amazing connection with this plant.”

The Best 420 strains

These are the ten top marijuana strains for partying and celebrating 420.

  • Green Crack
  • Laughing Buddha
  • Tangie
  • Granddaddy Purple
  • Zkittlez
  • Original Glue
  • Gelato
  • Cherry Cake
  • Super Silver Haze
  • Blue Dream

What Does “420-Friendly” Mean and Why is it Important for Social Networking?

The term “420-friendly” indicates an openness to cannabis culture, which is vital for users seeking like-minded individuals. A 420friendly social networking site caters to this community, enabling connections and experiences without stigma, fostering a safe space for both recreational and medicinal users to share and socialize.

Top 420 Recipes

These are two highly recommended recipes from Delish for curbing the munchies when consuming cannabis on April 20.

Tater Tot-Chos


  • 2 (1-lb) bags frozen tater tots
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tbsp taco seasoning
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup of black beans
  • One jalapeño, sliced
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack
  • Cooking spray
  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole
  • Freshly chopped cilantro


  1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 400ºF. Meanwhile, shred 8 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese and chop tomatoes for garnish.
  2. Carefully place the tater tots on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. 
  3. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add one pound of ground beef, season with one tablespoon of taco seasoning, and cook until cooked through and browned.
  4.  Spoon the beef and black beans over the tots, then sprinkle with the cheese. Continue baking until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Top with chopped tomatoes, sliced jalapeños, avocado, and sour cream.

Milky Way Hot Mess


  • Butter
  • One box devil’s food cake mix, plus ingredients on the box
  • 1 1/2 c. chopped Milky Ways
  • Three scoops of vanilla ice cream
  • Warm Hot fudge and Caramel
  • Whipped cream
  • Sprinkles


  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and butter a 9″ cast-iron skillet.
  2. Prepare devil’s food cake batter according to box instructions. Pour into a buttered skillet and top with half the Milky Ways.
  3. Bake until cooked through, 33 to 35 minutes.
  4. Let cool for 5 minutes, then top with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, Caramel, whipped cream, remaining Milky Ways, and sprinkles.


Marijuana enthusiasts may never know the real story of how 4:20 ultimately evolved into an international weed day. What is apparent is that this holiday is special among pot smokers and the celebrations continue to grow as marijuana legalization activists push for legal marijuana in more places. It seems that April 20 will be a special day and 4:20 will be an important time for people who consume cannabis for many years to come.

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