The Evolution of 420 and Your 2021 Guide


It’s time to celebrate another 420, and this year more people will be celebrating with social distancing in mind. For this reason, Leafbuyer has again created the “Leafbuyer 420 Guide”, in which you can find the best offers in your legalized state.

Leafbuyer 420 instructions

Marijuana is rapidly gaining traction with recent advances in decriminalization, legalization, and an ever-growing media presence. With cannabis such a hot topic in the news right now, it makes sense that more and more people would be exposed to an entirely new culture that they either didn’t know existed or just didn’t care.

Read the Leafbuyer 420 Guide to 420 Events and 420 Cannabis Deals in Your State!

With this new reveal comes a rush of frequently asked questions, one of which is frequently, “What is 420?” It’s a good question that doesn’t have a straightforward answer. The answer to the question of knowing what 420 is is knowing where it came from, how it got mainstream, and how its popularity changed its meaning. This magic number for marijuana is more than an inside joke for stoners. 420 is a symbol that connects everyone who loves cannabis and cannabis culture.

The origins of 420

Holding a marijuana leaf among marijuana plants

Many have tried to determine the exact origin of the legend of 420, but some level of confusion and mystery still surrounds the number’s past. The theory that most resists speculation is that of the Waldos. Waldos history dates back to the 1970s and is set in a wealthy California county called Marin. Legend has it that five teenagers who called themselves Waldos met around 4:20 p.m. to smoke a daily joint after school. They reportedly used 420 as the code word for smoking, which worked when only the five knew the now popular term. But this story begs the question: How did a handful of kids manage to start the global 420 trend? That brings us to the Grateful Dead, the band that supposedly popularized 420 after picking them up from a roadie who also happened to be one of the five members of the Waldos.

However, not everyone believes that the Waldos theory is a gospel. Other crazy theories speculate that police codes for weed or event advertising were actually the true origin of the modern 420. It’s up to you to choose which story to believe! We may never know with 100% certainty how 420 came about. And with a number of Stoners as our historians, that’s really no big surprise. 420’s past may seem hazy, but the answer to “what is 420?” is much clearer.

What is 420 now?

Marijuana flag at 420 rallyEditorial Credit: arindambanerjee /

While 420 may have started out as a cunning code word for smoke clock, it can no longer be used that way. Too many people, including non-stoners, are realizing the meaning of the term. What is 420 if not a secret code? Much like the weed leaf, 420 is more than just a time, a date, and a corresponding code word. It’s more than an inside joke and a smoking time. The legend of 420 left its roots to become an icon for stoners, a weed smoking symbol, a well-known reference in popular culture, and a worldwide holiday aptly held on April 20th. 420 annual festivals are everywhere and take place in most areas with weed-friendly guidelines. San Francisco, Denver, Seattle, and Amsterdam celebrate 420 festivals annually, and that’s just a handful of the cities that will honor all of marijuana again on April 20, 2019.

How is 420 celebrated?

Marijuana in grinder and joint ready to roll, shows what 420 is and how people celebrate it

Think of your favorite holiday: maybe Christmas, Halloween or even St. Patrick’s Day. Think of all the traditional celebrations like decorating the family Christmas tree, donning outrageous costumes or wearing green and drinking blindly. As with 420, none of these holidays will be celebrated as they were originally. Asking what is 420 is like asking what is Christmas or what is Halloween! Christmas doesn’t make us think of nativity scenes, Halloween no longer serves to respect the dead, and the long-dead Saint Patrick (patron saint of Ireland) is probably not the first thing you think of on March 17th. All of this shows that just because a vacation started in a certain way, it won’t always be.

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420 was once a 5 person celebration of secret smoking (if the Waldos story is true) but has grown into a holiday celebrating a citizen’s right to marijuana. In the case of this vacation, I would say that this is a good kind of change.

Celebrate 420 as time

420 on a digital clock showing what 420 is

Since the origin of 420 supposedly began as a planned time for smoking, it makes sense that stoners would continue to celebrate 420 as the time for weed and weed product consumption. A few more hardcore weed lovers party 420 twice and smoke once in the morning and once in the afternoon (4:20 am and afternoon respectively). However, most people agree that 4:20 pm is a better time to get the best high. When you celebrate 420 as the time, as soon as you see 4:20 a.m. on the clock, drop it all and smoke as fast as you can. 4:21 just isn’t as satisfying or meaningful as 4:20, so catching the smoke on time is a pleasure! Unfortunately, it’s difficult, if not downright impossible, to celebrate marijuana with nine to five jobs at 4:20 p.m.

Celebrate 420 as a date

April 20th on a calendar with grass on the background that shows what 420 is

As the 20th day of the fourth month, April 20th is the not-so-unofficial holiday for marijuana and marijuana lovers everywhere. At a time when weeds were illegal and punishable by law, large-scale 420 celebrations were a way to enjoy cannabis while actively protesting restrictive laws. When the legalization of recreational cannabis rather than an ideal became a reality, 420 became a festival of celebration and of course still a weed. Now at 420 festivals, expect large crowds in their best stoner attire, a weed-induced good mood, more smoking devices than you can name, and maybe some town cops keeping the entire event in check. When the clock strikes at 4:20 pm on April 20th at a 420 festival, everyone is smoking their favorite strain of weed in honor of the big 420. The date celebration for 420 is not complete without a huge cloud of marijuana smoke.

Celebrate 420 as a number

420 as the house number

420 has assumed a meaning that is much greater than a date and time. But what is 420 if not the date and time? 420 is a number stoners are looking for, enjoy, and have in common. Celebrating 420 as a number means you’re cooking your frozen pizza at 420 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 415 degrees. It means laughing when your local pharmacy address is 420. They will recognize, enjoy, and share general knowledge about the number The Best Way to Celebrate 420. Finding joy in these little 420 creates a reason to celebrate all the time, not just a specific day at a specific time.

The future of 420

Marijuana clothing at the marijuana rallyEditorial Credit: Anna50 /

The world of cannabis is changing rapidly, which means 420 tomorrow may not mean what it does today. Given recent advances in the marijuana industry like Canada’s recreational cannabis legalization, we can only predict an increase in cannabis use. Attitudes towards marijuana are changing, and we can assume that the legend of 420 will continue to grow with the weed industry. Sure, April 20th will likely never be a public holiday, but it will continue to change and evolve as the weed industry grows. Who knows, one day you might even share a joint with grandma and grandpa at exactly 4:20 pm the next April 20th! Either way, the legend of 420 is here to stay. We can only wait and see where 420 goes and what becomes of it.


Beth Edmonds