What Is 420? Here’s Why April 20 Is Associated With Marijuana

April 20 marks 420 Day with tens of thousands of Americans celebrating the unofficial holiday honoring marijuana.

While several different explanations have been given, a definitive reason of why 420 is associated with marijuana has yet to be determined.

Steven Hager, a former editor of the popular marijuana-themed media outlet High Times told the New York Times in 2009 that the holiday started in honor of a ritual performed by California teenagers in the 1970s.

The then-high school students are said to have smoked marijuana every day at 4:20 p.m. and the number 420 became code for smoking the plant, with 4/20 being acknowledged for calendar purposes.

A group of Californians known as “the Waldos” have published documentation and verification to support the theory, however, it has not been proven that their claims are valid.

Another common belief is that 420 was the California penal code for marijuana, however, there is no evidence to support the claim, according to Snopes.com.

A separate theory traces 420 to the number of active chemicals in marijuana, though the plant is actually believed to have nearly 500 active chemicals, according to the book Cannabis and Cannaboids: Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutic Potential by researcher Ethan B. Russo.

A far less popular theory traces the 420 origin to the 1939 short story In the Walls of Eryx by H.P. Lovecraft and Kenneth Sterling, which describes “curious mirage-plants” that seem to resemble marijuana as getting the narrator high at 4:20, according to his watch, which would serve as the possible earliest documented link of marijuana to 420.

Regardless, the number is synonymous with marijuana and the legalization of the plant, which has gained momentum in recent years.

As of April 20, 2022, recreational marijuana is legal in 18 states and Washington, D.C., while medicinal marijuana is only illegal in 11 states.

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