The Brief:

4/20 is a cannabis term that can reference a holiday on the 20th of April, a popular weed smoking time, or pot more broadly. 


The Holiday

The best-known rendition of 4/20 is a cannabis-themed holiday that falls on the 20th of April. On this day, which is also known as “4/20 Day” or “Weed Day,” stoners and marijuana connoisseurs celebrate appropriately by getting blazed all day long.

On any given 4/20, there are a variety of events: concerts, meet-ups, conventions, etc., both formal and informal. The legalization of marijuana in some places has led to a rise in official, legal events related to the holiday.

The exact origins of this holiday and reasons it is celebrated on this day are widely debated. Theories include that it’s a reference to a Bob Dylan song, a secret police code, and that it’s a weed-related California penal code.

The most popular and widely-credited origin story goes back to a group of teenagers in San Rafel, California in the 1970s. A group of friends who called themselves The Waldos used to meet after school at 4:20 pm to get high. 4:20 was an ideal time because it’s after school gets out but before parents typically come home.

According to the story, “420” became a way for The Waldos to talk about weed in front of their unsuspecting parents and teachers. From there, the term spread across The Bay Area, California, and eventually around the world.

At some point, someone must have made the connection between 4:20 as a time of day and 4/20 as a date and decided that they should both be times designated to consuming cannabis.

The Phrase

In addition to the holiday and time of day, 420 is used more broadly to refer to marijuana-related endeavors, people, places, and things. Saying “420 blaze it” is a semi-ironic way to celebrate weed. “420 friendly” is a way for people to indicate that they smoke ganja and encourage others to join them. On social media, posts tagged #420 usually depict marijuana or marijuana-related content.

As A Meme

Similarly to how some people will always giggle when they see the number 69, there is a similar inside-joke connotation to the number 420. Some people will use it in their usernames or social media handles as a reference to stoner culture. At times, it’s used as the punchline of a joke or pointed out when it comes up.