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WTF Is 420?

WTF Is 420?

Nowadays there’s a holiday for everyone. There’s National Bartender Day, dedicated to the guys and gals who sling your brews, and National Hugging Day, reserved for those who like to, well, hug. Even cats get a day. But for stoners, the only holiday that really matters is 420. 

Celebrated on April 20th, 420 is a cultural phenomenon steeped in mystery, rebellion, and a lot of ganja. Its origins are somewhat hazy, and while we can’t pinpoint when or why 420 took root, we have some ideas. Some say it started as a code among high school students in the 1970s; others believe it originated from a police code. 

Despite its murky beginnings, 420 has evolved into a global celebration of cannabis culture. It’s an opportunity for businesses to tap into the hype, blaze new trails with creative marketing campaigns, and connect meaningfully with cannabis enthusiasts. So, grab your rolling papers and join us as we answer the question, “What the f*ck is 420?” and explore how to light up your marketing strategy for the holiday and beyond.

How Did We Get Here?


Of course, there are many theories about how this unofficial holiday came to be. Some people believe it might be linked to the police code for weed possession. Others dished tales of Bob Dylan’s soulful anthem “Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35,” where the chorus chants, “Everybody must get stoned,” and the calculation that multiplied 12 by 35 equals 420. However, the most popular theory of 420 is that a crew of teenagers coined the term. 

High-School Legends

Is it any surprise that people credit 420 to a group of high-school students looking to get stoned? Here’s what happened: in the 70s, a clique of five teenagers from California would convene by a wall outside their San Rafael school, hence the nickname “the Waldos.” In the autumn of 1971, the group stumbled upon a far-out opportunity; a Coast Guard member had supposedly planted a cannabis plant but could no longer tend to it. 

The Waldos wanted to pounce on this discovery and set up a meeting spot and time–4:20 p.m.—to embark on a mission to find the elusive herb in the nearby Point Reyes Forest. Despite their efforts, they never found the hidden stash, but their meet-ups became a regular activity, scheduled for 4:20, and became their own code for discreetly discussing their cannabis-related activities. Fifty years later, the Waldos are still tight.

Spreading the Word

The Waldos had a web of connections to the Grateful Dead, pivotal in popularizing the term “420.” With open access to the band and connections within the Dead community, the Waldos began spreading their secret phrase. Steven Bloom, a reporter for High Times, first encountered the term during a Grateful Dead concert in 1990. A flyer handed to him by a Deadhead referenced a “420” gathering in Marin County, attributing the term’s origins to the Waldos of San Rafael. High Times later helped disseminate the story, catapulting “420” into a global phenomenon.

420 Culture

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re familiar with the term 420, even if you don’t participate. What started as a covert way for a group of high schoolers to discuss their plans to get their hands on some herb has since become a worldwide phenomenon.

As the term gained popularity among the hippie communities and fans of the Grateful Dead, it became synonymous with cannabis culture and the pursuit of freedom and self-expression. It served as a rallying cry for those who believed in the healing properties of the plant and advocated for its legalization.

Even celebs have played a crucial role in amplifying 420’s appeal, using their platforms to endorse products and events, broadening the holiday’s reach to diverse audiences worldwide, and creating an attitude of acceptance around reefer. Movies like Dazed and Confused and Half Baked to events like the Cannabis Cup, 420 has been portrayed as a symbol of rebellion, freedom, and counterculture. 

The stoner comedy genre, popularized by films like Pineapple Express and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, has helped destigmatize cannabis use and fostered a more light-hearted and accepting view of marijuana in mainstream media. Additionally, the rise of influential figures like Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson, known for their unabashed use of cannabis, has normalized its use and challenged negative stereotypes. 

Over time, 420 has transcended its origins and become a symbol of celebration for potheads worldwide. It’s a day of toking, activism, and reflection, where people from all grooves of life come together to honor the plant and the community it has cultivated.

From music festivals to political rallies to your favorite movies, 420 events take place in cities across the globe, drawing thousands of participants who share a common passion for weed and its culture. It’s a day to celebrate progress, push for change, and unite in the fight for cannabis legalization and to get HIGH.

Marketing Evolution

The emergence of social media propelled 420 from its underground origins into the mainstream. Even in the 90s, when the term gained popularity, there were not any highly connected communities on social media. Now, despite heavy regulation, platforms like Instagram and Facebook have become hubs for discussing and educating about 420-related content. Users utilize these platforms to share and promote events and experiences linked to the holiday. 

This transformation from a niche event to a widely celebrated occasion has prompted brands to capitalize on its popularity, leading to a surge in marketing efforts centered around 420-themed products and experiences. From clothing lines featuring 420-inspired designs to dispensaries offering special menu items and deals, the commercialization of 420 has permeated various industries, catering to a diverse audience. And your brand should get in on the action, too. Once you know your brand’s vibe, it’s easy to market to your customers. 

Not sure where to start? Try this:

  • Write groovy text and email campaigns personalized to your audience to hype up the holiday. Start sending messages as early as possible so your customers can anticipate what’s coming next.
  • Use your text and email campaigns to highlight unique product benefits and offer exclusive 420 deals and discounts.
  • Tie social media into the campaign. While you can’t advertise the selling of products or promotions, you can leverage education. Tell your followers they can sign up for text and email to receive special 420 information. Educate your customers on upcoming celebrations and events. 
  • As always, track and analyze your data to refine future strategies.

420 is the perfect time to see ROI on all things cannabis. If you market correctly, you’re sure to funk things up and have happy customers and a growing community. 

Weed has come a long way, and today, we’re witnessing the emergence of new trends and movements that reflect the changing tides of cannabis culture. Wellness takes center stage as individuals seek products and experiences that nurture mind, body, and soul. From CBD-infused elixirs to mindful meditation retreats, cannabis is woven into the fabric of holistic living, offering a path to greater harmony and balance. 

As we gaze into the crystal ball of 420, it’s a kaleidoscope of possibilities and excitement. The future is ripe with potential as we witness the ongoing legalization of cannabis, igniting a cultural revolution that’s reshaping societal attitudes and norms. With each puff, the stigma surrounding cannabis lessens, paving the way for a colorful tapestry of acceptance and celebration. So, let’s raise our joints, bongs, and vape pens to the future of 420 and beyond. Let’s TOKE!

Key Takeaways 

  • Groovy Movement: 420 has moved from a secret shindig to a worldwide bash, symbolizing freedom and rebellion and a day to show love to the plant.
  • Market Goldmine: The mainstreaming of 420 presents brands with rad chances to connect with ganja fans through inventive promos and unique offers.
  • Tomorrow’s Scene: Rising wellness vibes are steering cannabis culture’s future while society’s outlook on cannabis moves towards radical acceptance and the everyday normal.