The Origins of 420
The story of 420 begins in California in the 1970s, where a group of high school students known as "the Waldos" would meet after school at 4:20 PM to smoke cannabis together. The group chose this time because it was when their extracurricular activities had ended and they had free time to hang out. They also used "420" as a code word for cannabis, which helped keep their smoking sessions a secret from parents and authority figures.
Over time, the Waldos began using "420" as a shorthand for any cannabis-related activity, and the term spread among their friends and acquaintances. Eventually, it made its way into the wider cannabis culture, becoming a symbol of cannabis consumption and a way for people to connect with others who shared their love of the plant.
420 and Marijuana Legalization
Today, the 420 holiday is closely tied to the movement to legalize and regulate cannabis. Advocates for legalization often use 420 as an opportunity to raise awareness about the harms of prohibition and to advocate for policy reform.
One of the key arguments for legalization is that it would help reduce the disproportionate impact that drug prohibition has had on communities of color, particularly African Americans. Despite similar rates of cannabis use among different racial groups, Black Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis-related offenses than white Americans. This has led to devastating consequences for Black families and communities, including loss of employment, housing, and voting rights.
The painful/ unpleasant connection between African Americans and cannabis dates back to the early 20th century, when the plant was first criminalized in the United States. At the time, cannabis use was associated with Mexican immigrants and African American jazz musicians, both of whom were seen as a threat to white cultural dominance. This racialized stigma contributed to the eventual prohibition of cannabis in the United States.
Today, as we work to dismantle the legacy of cannabis prohibition and its disproportionate impact on Black communities, 420 serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for justice and equity in the cannabis industry.
420 and Cannabis Religious Practices
Cannabis has been used in religious and spiritual practices for centuries, and 420 has become a way to celebrate and honor these traditions. For example, Rastafarians, a religious movement that originated in Jamaica, believe that cannabis is a sacrament that brings them closer to their deity, Jah. They use cannabis in their daily rituals and celebrations, and often gather together on April 20th to commemorate the plant's spiritual significance.
In Hinduism, cannabis is associated with the god Shiva, who is often depicted with a smoking pipe. The plant is considered a gift from the gods, and is used in many religious ceremonies and festivals. Similarly, some Native American tribes use cannabis as part of their traditional healing practices, believing that the plant has powerful medicinal and spiritual properties.
420 and Social Activism
420 has become a platform for social activism and advocacy, as cannabis users and supporters use the holiday to raise awareness about a variety of issues related to drug policy, social justice, and equity in the cannabis industry.
For example, the group Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) has organized 420 events on college campuses across the country to educate students about drug policy reform and advocate for the legalization of cannabis. Other organizations use 420 as an opportunity to raise awareness about issues such as the impact of the War on Drugs, which has had devastating consequences for communities of color and other marginalized groups.
In recent years, 420 has also become a platform for advocacy around cannabis and the LGBTQ+ community. Many cannabis businesses and organizations have made it a priority to support queer and trans individuals in the industry, and to use their platform to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and equality.
One organization that has been at the forefront of this advocacy is NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Founded in 1970, NORML has been working tirelessly for over 50 years to legalize marijuana and end the War on Drugs. They have been instrumental in pushing for legislative changes at both the state and federal levels, and have been a key player in shaping public opinion around cannabis.
Another important figure in the cannabis advocacy space is our very own Dr. Hervé Damas. Dr. Damas has been working to promote the use of medical marijuana for nearly a decade. From working at the grassroots level to help pass Florida's medical marijuana legislation, through his cannabis wellness center- he has provided patients all across the United States with access to cannabis-based treatments for a wide range of medical conditions.
Dr. Damas has also been an outspoken advocate for social equity in the cannabis industry. He has been critical of the way that cannabis legalization has often benefited white, wealthy individuals while leaving behind communities of color and other marginalized groups. He has been a vocal supporter of policies that would address these inequities, such as expungement of cannabis-related criminal records and reinvestment in communities most affected by the War on Drugs.
420 Health and Wellness
In addition to its cultural and social significance, 420 is also becoming an important day for health and wellness. As more people turn to cannabis for its medicinal properties, 420 is becoming a way to celebrate and promote the plant's therapeutic benefits.
Research has shown that cannabis can be effective in treating a wide range of medical conditions, from chronic pain to anxiety and depression. Many people also use cannabis to promote overall wellness, using it to relax, reduce stress, and improve sleep.
In recent years, there has been a growing interest in using cannabis in conjunction with other wellness practices, such as yoga and meditation. Some yoga studios now offer "ganja yoga" classes, where participants can use cannabis before or during their practice to enhance the experience and deepen their connection to their body and breath.
420 has come a long way from its origins as a secret code word among a group of high school students. Today, it is a cultural phenomenon that celebrates cannabis and its many benefits, from social connection and spiritual growth to health and wellness.
As we continue to work towards a more just and equitable cannabis industry, 420 serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for justice and equality. It is a day to honor the plant, celebrate its cultural significance, medicinal benefits and advocate for policies that promote fairness and equity for all.
"The Origin of 420" by David Downs, Leafly
"The Racist Roots of Marijuana Prohibition" by Lisa Marie Basile, VICE
"420 Events Across America Highlight the Need for Marijuana Reform" by Matt Ferner, Huffington Post
"Queering Cannabis: The LGBTQ Community's Influence on the Industry" by Danielle Corcione, Leafly
"How Yoga and Cannabis Can Together Enhance Your Practice" by Jacqueline Havelka, Leafly