For years now, 4/20 has been associated with stoners and celebrated by people across the globe who do so much as dabble with marijuana. But it’s always been associated with protest and skirting the rules – a collective participation in an illegal act as a way to stick it to the man. As cannabis is legalized more and more widely, the whole “doing something you aren’t supposed to” part of the holiday is starting to fade. So is 4/20 still a thing, even though weed is finally starting to be accessible?  The short answer is yes.  In fact, it’s now the biggest day for legal weed sales. 2021 saw a record-breaking year and 2022 is expected to go a step further. One cannatech firm anticipates the legal marijuana market will rake in $130 million in the U.S. alone on April 20th – up $19 million from the year before. If you count sales for the entire week, the firm, Akerna, expects that number to jump to $400 million.

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The History of 4/20

Today, 4/20 is widely accepted as a holiday honored and celebrated by certain people. But stories about how 4/20 originated vary.  Some believe “420” is a reference to the police code for a marijuana arrest in progress. That’s false, as is the notion that the number refers to a reference for the first legal marijuana in California.  There’s another theory that 420 is a nod to the number of chemical compounds in the marijuana plant. That one’s way off.

4/20 date circled on a calendar Source: Shutterstock
There were theories that the date and time coincided with Bob Marley’s death. That guess is wrong, too – he died May 11th of 1981 and was born February 6th, 1945. It isn’t the birth or death date for Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, or Jim Morrison either, as others have theorized.   Historians seem to believe the holiday traces back to 1971 in Marin County, California. A group of high school kids would meet up at 4:20 p.m. each day to smoke weed. Why that time? Simple: they’re students meeting on campus, so they waited until extracurricular activities and sports practices had mostly ended and the school grounds had largely cleared out. The kids started referring to marijuana as “420” as a code so they could discuss their plans in public. As the tale goes, one of the members of that group later started working as a roadie for the Grateful Dead, and the band caught on to and then popularized the joke.  In 1990, a group of Deadheads handed out flyers inviting people in Oakland to smoke “420” on April 20th at 4:20 p.m. A reporter with High Times Magazine got a hold of one of those flyers and printed it in 1991. He also sent it to the Huffington Post, which printed the history and officially coined the phrase.  This particular story is the only one with evidence to back it up. That group of high schoolers, who called themselves the Waldos (because they met at a wall by a statue of famous chemist Louis Pasteur) have a 420 tie-dyed flag from their adventures in the 1970s, along with a newspaper clipping with one of the Waldos talking about how he hoped to mention 420 in his graduation speech. A woman named Carly Schwartz also provided the History Channel with postmarked letters between the Waldos where members of the group repeatedly mention 420. 

4/20 Today

Even 50 years later, the 4/20 reference is still holding strong. In the movie “Pulp Fiction” some of the clocks are set to 4:20. In Nickelodeon’s cartoon Rocko’s Modern Life a clock did the same. On The Price is Right a contestant on the show only bid amounts involving numbers like $420 and $1420.  Rapper Snoop Dogg thinks legalization will only promote 4/20 further.  “I could see April 20th becoming an official holiday worldwide as marijuana continues to decriminalize and legalize around the world,” he said. “This magical plant positively impacts all sorts of industries – health, tech, business, sports. 420 is one of my favorite days because the whole world comes together for a smoke in celebration of it.”

Snoop Dogg performing live at the Fillmore of Detroit Source: Shutterstock
The CEO of Ganja Labs, Balram Vaswani, is a huge proponent of the holiday. As the company producing Jamaica’s first legal marijuana harvest, we can understand why. “April 20th is the most significant day in the weed world, celebrating and bringing together people from all walks of life that have one common philosophy: the burning of the herb and upliftment of the mind,” Vaswani told the Rolling Stone.

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Coupons and Deals This 4/20

For those who are celebrating 4/20, there are plenty of ways to save some dough while you honor the holiday. Jimmy John’s is giving a discount based on how high you are. On April 20th, its elevation checker site goes live and gives customers coupons for up to 20% off a sub sandwich based on how “high” they are.  Jack in the Box is selling a $4.20 Pineapple Express Shake to celebrate the holiday in 2022.  Wingstop has a Blazed & Glazed deal available to celebrate the holiday. TGI Fridays has a Blazed & Glazed bundle that you can get through Uber Eats.  Insomnia Cookies is dropping limited-edition products on 4/20.  Budweiser Stage, an outdoor music venue in Canada, is offering discounts on lawn tickets to a Black Crowes Show for 4/20.  Individual localities are going big on the holiday, too. In Tucson, dispensaries have sales on everything from loose flower and pre-rolls. Some have in-store giveaways, and a dispensary called The Prime Leaf has 42% off every single thing in the store for 4/20.

A sign advertising a sale of 10% off all cannabis in store Source: Shutterstock
Our sister site, PotGuide, has an extensive 420 Guide as well.