420 (four twenty): Meaning, History and More

Apr 15, 2024

The magical week is upon us where people in countries across the world join hands to celebrate marijuana culture. After joining hands, they realize they can’t light their joints, though, and decide to just hang out together instead. 

April 20, written as 420 or 4/20 in some countries, is the day marijuana enthusiasts celebrate their favorite medication, but why did they pick this day? The jury is still out, because most people are just too high to be sure… but here is some info about the day, as well as some theories about the mysterious number to discuss as you celebrate! 

What Does 420 Mean?

“Happy 420!” is a frequent phrase used among pot smokers, and isn’t just used on April 20th. Cannabis aficionados will often light one up when the clock strikes 4:20 in the afternoon (or even morning for the hardcore ones), or at least send a text to their fellow stoner friends reminding them what time of day it is.

Some think that 420 is the police radio code for marijuana smoking, but that’s false (it is, however, the radio code for homicide in some places… so let’s debunk those claims quickly). By most accounts, this is the only other regularly used “420” outside of cannabis, but it does have a few different uses within the cannabis industry:

  • “Is your house 420-friendly?” translates to “Can I smoke pot in here?”
  • “It’s 420 somewhere!” translates to “I don’t care what time it is, I’m smoking some reefer.”
  • “Let’s meet up at 420 later” translates to “Who knows what time it will actually be with all this stuff I have to do, but let’s definitely smoke weed tonight at some point”

And what about fourtwenty?

You may have also seen “fourtwenty” used, and it’s the the name of an online grow forum and headshop here in Switzerland. If you’ve heard of fourtwenty, you may have also heard of the brand Hempy, and we’re proud to have them in our store. Check out some products here. 

When is the Weed Day?

The fourth day of the twentieth month wasn’t a thing, so the never-resting stoner ingenuity led to the celebration being on the twentieth day of the fourth month, which is written as 4/20 in some countries. 

So, April 20 is the day everyone celebrates cannabis culture. 

The 420, 4 : 20 or 4/20 (pronounced four-twenty) refers to the date of April 20, World Cannabis Lovers’ Day. This date celebrates the use of this plant and is a way of identifying with the counter-culture surrounding cannabis. The term is also associated with the hour of 4:20 or 16:20, the ideal time to experience the full effects of the magical plant.

Person smoking cannabis on 420 or fourtwenty day
Riding the Four-Twenty Wave! Experience the relaxing effect of CBD with every puff. Dive into a wave of tranquility and serenity, breath by breath.

Where does 420 come from?

There is no definitive answer to this question, but there are a lot of fun theories. From secret weed islands, to high school code words, to Bob Dyland and Grateful Dead claims, there are some fun ideas on the origin of 420, including in places where it remains illegal. Roll one up, these are fun (except 1, which we won’t give much time to):

San Rafael High School and Grateful Dead 

We’ll start with what seems to be the most credible by most accounts, including this Time Magazine article, then we’ll work to the wackiest. 

San Rafael is a small town just north of San Francisco in U.S. state of California. San Francisco has always been a bit of a hippy haven, and many political events are held nearby at the University of California at Berkeley, as are a lot of 420 festivals (including many that happened long before cannabis was legal in the United States).

San Francisco is also where the band Grateful Dead got their start before rising to international fame and becoming notorious stoners all across the world. This is where it gets fun!

Even though it was illegal, weed and Northern California have been synonymous in the U.S. since the 1960s, when many anti-war protests (many at the aforementioned UC-Berkeley) and otherwise “keep it chill, man” events took place. 

“The Emerald Triangle” is a part of California just north of San Rafael that has been growing pot in abundance for more than 80 years. Now, The Triangle produces more than 6 million pounds of legal cannabis each year, and there are still plenty of illegal operations in the region. 

With 80 years of pushing out those amounts of marijuana, it’s safe to say that 420 activities like smoking pot in San Rafael weren’t exactly heinous crimes.

Back to San Rafael and Grateful Dead… in the early 1970s, a group of five students would meet every day for a smoke session after class at San Rafael High School. The phrase evolved into a code word meaning pretty much anything about marijuana when adults or non-smoking squares were around. 

“420 dude, don’t go to class yet” could mean “you look high,” and 420 things of the like. The code word grew in the town amongst stoners, and as luck would have it, a brother of one of the students became a roadie with Grateful Dead and their ritual spread. The term followed them on tour and the rest is history… at least according to a lot of people. 

Police Code

Rapper Snoop Dogg loves weed, and Snoop Dogg isn’t afraid to use police codes, often reeferencing (heyo) “1-8-7” in his songs. This code is for murder in Los Angeles, his hometown, and if anyone knows what the police code for weed is it would be Snoop… and it is not 4-2-0 anywhere. Coincidentally it is code for murder in a few other cities, but consider this debunked. April 20 isn’t a day police seem to like very much because marijuana smokers do.

Hitler’s Birthday

No. A very unfortunate coincidence. Stoners like peace. This is ridiculous. 

Bob Dylan

Some people claim that the Bob Dylan tune Rainy Day Women # 12 and 35 is the source, as the song does, indeed, repeatedly say “everybody must get stoned,” and 12 times 35 is 420. It’s a pretty fun theory and certainly not debunkable… but does anyone really know what Bob Dylan is talking about?

Secret Island

Another fairly popular story is that a group of high school students would meet everyday after school for some marijuana use, and to search for an island they heard was full of marijuana that grew from an abandoned cannabis crop. There are less details to this than the San Rafael story, so it’s most likely just an evolution of the one most consider the real origin. 

What’s your favorite 420 origin story?

Critics of 420 and its effects on health

Image with the text "Just a herb" in English, symbol of 420
Just a Herb? More Like a Green Miracle! Enjoy the natural goodness of herbs in each leaf. It’s not just a plant, it’s a journey to wellness!

The 420 has also come in for a lot of criticism from advocates, who are in favor of penalizing cannabis, not least because of the presence of THC in large quantities, which produces a “high” effect. The health argument is generally put forward, because according to certain scientific studies, cannabis can be harmful to a certain category of people. Cannabis use in young people, for example, could lead to reduced brain capacity, dependency problems, anxiety and depression. Cannabis is still the cause of many road accidents and organized crime.

How do we celebrate 420 at uWeed in 2022?

We will be celebrating with some weed, of course, just the legal kind (for now)! And sharing it with you, our friends. Starting on April 20, we will have a four-day sale of 20% off our entire store using the code 42022. Please check back and happy holidaze!!!