Why is 4/20 a “Cannabis Holiday”?

A cannabis cafe in the Netherlands with a neon sigh reading Coffeeshop Reefer

Happy high holy day holiday!

Even the most numeric challenged mathlete among us knows that 4/20 is Stoner Christmas, Puff Puff Passover, and Kwanzaa Kush Day rolled into one special day or dispensary discounts and comically large joints. But why 4/20? What mystical connection does this number have to cannabis?

Grab a mop to clean up your mind, because I’m about to blow it.

But first, let’s clear a few things up – what 4/20 is not.

Any of the following theories are bullshit. I’m not sure how anyone came to the conclusion that they had merit, but maybe they were high. Really, really high. Some of these do seem like the type of things concocted by someone sitting around doing dabs waaaaaaay longer than dabs needed doing.

Or perhaps it was someone who has a dream catcher hanging from their rearview mirror. (Yes, I have a problem with that. It’s a fucking CAR, and you should be awake while operating it, not worried about “catching dreams” while it’s in motion. Wise up, hippie.)

“It’s because of Hitler’s birthday.”


Wait, what? What the hell?! Why would you even say that? What is wrong with your brain? I just…

Yes, it’s true that little limp-dick failed artist speed freak was born on 4/20. But there is no conceivable way that anyone thought the best way to celebrate it was to start using cannabis. Nazis have always sucked, and cannabis should not be, and never has been, associated with them.

How many stoned Nazis do you know? The answer is zero. You know zero stoned Nazis. C’mon…

“It’s police code for ‘cannabis smoking in progress.’”


Do you actually think all police departments have the same police codes for “cannabis smoking in progress” from state to state?

That’s stupid. Stop believing stupid things. Try using some critical thinking skills, which as Americans, we are sorely lacking. No, it’s not “police code” for anything. I don’t care how many reruns of “Law and Order” you’ve watched on edibles.


“It’s the number of chemical compounds in cannabis.”

That isn’t true, and based on the pathetic amount of research we’re legally allowed to perform on cannabis in this country, I’m always surprised this has gained any traction. But if you are saying this, you are insulting science. Don’t do that. As the pandemic has showed us, science good.

How many chemical compounds are there in cannabis? It doesn’t matter, and I don’t know. It’s not 420, okay? There’s plenty, and you wouldn’t be able to name them all anyway. Don’t worry about it. You have more important things to do than memorize cannabis chemical compounds, or, at least I hope you do.

“It’s the hotel room number the Grateful Dead always stayed at while on tour.”


Oh Jesus Christ, this again? Really?

Do you understand how a touring band works? Apparently not. Do you think an entire band as successful as the Grateful Dead did what, exactly— had all the members stay in one single hotel room because it had a certain room number on the door?

No. No, they did not.

No band ever would, that’s how you get drunken murders, and even if that happened, which it did not, it wouldn’t have any bearing on anything, anywhere, ever. And no, I don’t want to hear about the summer you followed them on tour while selling burritos in the parking lot, or your soundboard tapes from ’74 at the Cow Palace. Get away from me.

“If you take Bob Dylan’s ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’ and multiply 12 and 35, you get 420.”

Numerically speaking, that is correct, the chorus is “Everybody must get stoned”, and he turned the Beatles onto cannabis. But that doesn’t mean Dylan was inserting simple math puzzles into his song titles. It makes me very sad that you think Dylan had that sort of time, let alone that kind of transparency in his lyrics. Have you ever heard a Dylan song? Maybe you should go pick up the new Justin Bieber, and not worry about why Dylan does what he does.


So why DO we celebrate 4/20?

Here’s the big reveal that’s going to change your life—brace yourself:

Back in the 1970s, a group of high school buddies in San Rafael, California, who called themselves “the Waldos” liked to get together in front of a statue of Louis Pasteur at their school to get high at 4:20 pm. Later, that morphed into using the number 420 to refer to anything weed-related.

That’s it. That’s the verified reason—you can Google it (along with any of the falsehoods).

Yep, it comes from a group of kids smoking weed, which is exactly what every prohibitionist freaks out about. By the way, those kids all ended up dying from cannabis. (Except that they didn’t, because weed never killed anybody.)

Happy 4/20!

Josh Taylor is a well-known and successful entrepreneur in the legal cannabis space, producing B2B and B2C cannabis events, "Backstage Budtending" and upscale concierge services through his companies OregonCannabisConcierge.com and CaliforniaCannabisConcierge.com. His weekly syndicated newspaper column and features about cannabis ran for five years until March 2020.

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