Why the 420 Movement Was and Is Ahead of Its Time

Trailblazers seldom make history quietly. And so it goes with the origination of “420” and how it became our industry-wide favorite day of the year. There are many tales told about the beginning of 420. Some are based on truth while many others are based on creativity gone wild (perhaps due to an extra toke on a THC fatty).

In honor of 420, we thought we’d give some credence to the folklore and help disseminate the rumors from fact – in case you wanted to share the story and impress your friends.

420 Fiction:

  • Code for law enforcement responding to calls about marijuana smoking in process. NOT.
  • Best time to plant marijuana. April may be a great time to start growing cannabis, but it depends on what region of the world you’re in.
  • There are 420 different chemical compounds that make up marijuana. NOT. More like 315.
  • Coined from the California Senate Bill 420 which regulated medicinal marijuana in that state. That law was enacted in January 2004, long after the term “420” began.

If you’ve got a great story about the early rumblings of 420, we’d love to hear it. Our budtenders could use some entertaining ideas on how it all began.

What Does 420 Mean? | Kind Meds

But for the record, this is really how 420 went down:

A handful of athletes attending San Rafael High School in Northern California liked to hang out and get stoned together in the early 70s. In 1971, they learned of someone who had a cannabis plant in the Point Reyes Forest, made available to them if they could find it.

The owner of that crop could not tend to the cannabis any longer and it was theirs for the taking. So, at least once each week, after their sports practice sessions were over, they’d meet up at 4:20 pm. Intermittently on campus, they’d see each other in the hallways and classrooms and mention the term “420” as a reminder of the next meeting when they would get high and venture into the forest to search for that weed.

They never found it. Instead, the 420 stuck as their own code to talk about everything marijuana without the risk of being found out by their parents and other naysayers. But the connection to a cannabis culture quickly cast a wider net.

One of these high schoolers had a father who handled the Grateful Dead’s real estate acquisitions. Another had an older brother who was a good friend of the band’s bassist Phil Lesh. The kids would attend their concerts regularly, using 420 as a mention and suggestion to pass a joint their way. The term blossomed into a global phenomenon, in part from the support of High Times magazine.

Even back in the day, marijuana use was a lifestyle that supported the cannabis experience. Today, the experience continues to grow (pun intended). Some regions in America are more progressive than others but the cannabis community has gained more acceptance, and will continue to do so, thanks to quality-centric dispensaries and advocates like you.


Celebrate the truth behind 420 with us, though we look forward to hearing your personal embellishments nonetheless.


Looking for a sweet 420 cannabis sale? For our Arizona patients, check out our 420 deals here.