Wikipedia 420, 4/20, 4:20

420, April 20th, 4:20

420, 4:20 or 4/20 (pronounced four-twenty) refers to consumption of cannabis and, by extension, a way to identify oneself with cannabis subculture. The notable day for these is April 20.[1] (Not to be confused with J-Day, an international protest held on the first Saturday of May.)

The term was allegedly coined by a group of teenagers in San Rafael, California in 1971.[2][3] Calling themselves the Waldos, because “their chosen hang-out spot was a wall outside the school,”[4] 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.[5] The Waldos designated the Louis Pasteur statue on the grounds of San Rafael High School as their meeting place, and 4:20 p.m. as their meeting time.[4] 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.[5]

High Times Creative Director Steven Hager 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 PM 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.”

April 20 observances

April 20 (4/20 in U.S. date notation) has evolved into a counterculture holiday, where people gather to celebrate and consume cannabis.[1] Some events have a political nature to them, advocating for the decriminalization of non-medical cannabis in the United States.

Partial View of Hippie Hill in San Francisco

American observance

San Francisco, California

Every year thousands of people flock from all over California to San Francisco‘s Hippie Hill, located in Golden Gate Park near the famous Haight-Ashbury district.[6]

University of California, Santa Cruz

A celebration on April 20 takes place every year in the Porter College meadow at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The event has grown during recent years after the city of Santa Cruz passed Measure K 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.

Students and others gather to smoke cannabis at a meadow near Porter College on April 20, 2007—”420 Day”.

University of Colorado, Boulder

A large celebration is held every year on the University of Colorado‘s Boulder campus, with attendance reaching more than 11,000 in 2008. It has been estimated that in 2009 the crowd surpassed the 10,000 attendee mark that was set in 2008. This would make CU Boulder’s celebration of the hopeful legalization of marijuana one of the largest such celebrations in the United States.[7][8] University police have tried various methods to prevent the gathering, including photographing students participating in the event,[9] but the crowd has grown every year.[8] 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.[10]

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.[11]

No possession tickets were issued at the 2009 event.[12]

Panorama of the 2010 420 cannabis event at University of Colorado at Boulder.

Canadian observance

Ottawa, Ontario

Annually, on April 20, thousands of activists gather on Parliament Hill 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.[13][14]

Montréal, Québec

Every year on April 20, thousands of people gather at the Mont-Royal 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 2000 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.

Toronto, Ontario

Every year on April 20th since 2006, 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.

Vancouver, British Columbia

On April 20, 2009, an estimated nearly 10,000 people gathered around the Vancouver Art Gallery 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.[15]

New Zealand observance


In Auckland, New Zealand a 420 group meets regularly at the Daktory.[16]


In Dunedin, New Zealand, members of Otago NORML and some students at University of Otago meet every Wednesday and Friday at 4:20 pm 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.[17][18][19][20][21][22] The group leader was arrested for cannabis possession at a university Market Day unrelated to the 4:20 meetings,[23] but was later discharged without conviction on all charges.[24] The group celebrated their 5th anniversary on 11 September 2009.[25]

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