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The History of 420

The History of 420

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

No, not that time. We’re talking about that special holiday at the tail-end of April.

You know it, you love it, but do you really know it? Just like a whole host of other holidays, like St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo, people love to celebrate 420 but might be unfamiliar with its roots. Before we celebrate, we should really take a minute to observe the reason for the season. The questions below should light up your interests and clear the confusion in the air, so take a seat and let’s begin our course in 420 History. Take out your pencils and (rolling) papers, herb nerds. You might learn something.

Q: What is the meaning behind 420?

A: Back in 1971, five students from San Rafael High School in Marin County, California had a recurring smoke session after class. They would gather at their rendezvous point, a statue of legendary chemist Louis Pasteur that was on campus grounds. What time would they meet? You guessed it- 4:20.

Those three digits became a secret code amongst the group in an effort to keep their extracurricular activity on an exclusive invite-only basis. Fate had other plans, however, as one of the group member’s brothers was friends with Phil Lesh, bassist for the Grateful Dead. Once Lesh heard the term, he shared it with the rest of the band which began using the term so frequently, deadheads caught wind of it and adopted the phrase amongst themselves.

A seemingly inconsequential trio of numbers put together by high school kids had gone from their school’s campus to one of the greatest bands of all time, and then their dedicated fans. Then, in December of 1990, a group of Deadheads in Oakland took to the streets to hand out flyers inviting people to smoke “420” on “4/20” at “4:20.” One of these flyers ended up in the hands of High Times journalist Steve Bloom. He published the flyer in a 1991 issue of the magazine, and from that point on it spread like wildfire.

Q: Is “420” a police code?

A: No.

420 is not a police code for illegal smoking herb possession. There’s no evidence to support this on either a state or federal law enforcement level, but the confusion may have come from the fact that some law enforcement jurisdictions use 420 as code for juvenile disturbances.

Q: Which U.S. states allow residents to use smoking herbs for medicinal use?

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Washington D.C.
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

Q: What are the most popular ways to consume legal smoking herbs?

A recent survey of 1,600 North American adults found that the most popular way to smoke was by using rolling papers instead of vapes, water pipes, hand pipes, or creams. 52% of participants put wraps and pre-rolled cones at the top of their list, compared to 45% for hand pipes, 21% for water pipes, 20% for vaporizers, 12% for topical creams.

If you’re looking for rolling papers, you’ve come to the right place.

Bonus: Famous April 20th Birthdays

While it is true that Adolf Hitler was born on 4/20, let’s not talk about that jerk. Instead here’s a list of famous people who share their birthdays with the most infamous smoking holiday of the year.

  • Killer Mike from Run the Jewels
  • Jessica Lange
  • Miranda Kerr
  • George Takei
  • Carmen Electra
  • Andy Serkis
  • Crispin Glover
  • Shemar Moore
  • Joey Lawrence
  • Stephen Marley

The History of 420


So there you have it, a history lesson that actually held your attention! The term 420 has come a long way since its early days on a California high school campus, and April 20th becomes more enjoyable for smokers as new laws legalize the use of medicinal and recreational smoking herbs. We hope you enjoyed these facts about every smoker’s favorite holiday, and we hope you share your new knowledge with your smoking buddies!


What’s your favorite way to celebrate 4/20?