For some years now, all over the world, 20 April has been a day of celebration for those who support the legalisation of hemp and cannabis products. But why? Because of the number 420, known as ‘four-twenty’ by Americans. We shed some light on the myths and realities surrounding the origins of this iconic number.
It all started in 1970s California
In the US, the 1970s saw the emergence of various movements, including psychedelic rock, opposition to the Vietnam War, etc. Meanwhile, in California, skate culture was exploding, giving rise to an entirely new way of life. At the same time, cannabis was all the rage among teenagers. So, the number 420 was born in 1971 near a Californian high school. A group of young people going by the name ‘the Waldos’, because they would always hang about leaning against a wall, heard about an abandoned cannabis field.
Determined to take it over, they decided to meet every day at 4:20 under a statue of Louis Pasteur, at Point Reyes. Once there, they would smoke marijuana before setting off to look for this famous field. This meeting time, 420, became a code name for teenagers when talking about cannabis. The term was then popularised by rock group The Grateful Dead, the bassist of which was none other than the older brother of one of the Waldos.
An iconic number
Since 1970, a host of rumours surrounding the number 420 have circulated. Some tried to explain this choice of number by suggesting it was the code used by the police to signify infractions linked to the use of narcotics. Others tried to make a link between 420 and 20 April, Hitler’s birthday. But this was way off the mark.
What is true, however, is that the 420 was referred to widely in pop culture and in legislation that appeared after 1970. In Pulp Fiction, for example, all the clocks that appear on screen show 4:20, or 16:20, depending on the scene. Another interesting fact is that the law that governs the use of marijuana in California is law number 420. A happy coincidence? Probably not.
20 April in the USA: celebrations and awareness-raising
The theory about Hitler’s birthday has obviously been debunked, but 20 April has become a kind of national holiday in the US for those who support the legalisation of cannabis. With legalisation movements in more and more American states, 20 April becomes a bigger deal and gains more followers every year. This is especially visible on social media, with over 500,000 tweets mentioning 20 April on the day itself.
Nowadays, this date can be either a day of protest or a day of celebration, depending on the state’s particular legislation. It is also a day for raising awareness of the use of medical cannabis and of molecules like CBD, the status of which has not yet been fully regulated.
What impact has this had on France?
In France this year, 20 April saw the issue of cannabis legalisation brought back onto the agenda, for both recreational and medical purposes. For the first time, a 420 festival was held in the XIII°arrondissement of Paris by the French branch of NORML (National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws).
Saturday 20 April was especially dedicated to debates on the regulation and decriminalisation of cannabis in France. It was also the perfect time to talk about therapeutic cannabis, research into which has not been ruled out by the French government. CBD and all of its derivative products have been at the centre of debate, along with their potential therapeutic applications.
So, 20 April is quickly becoming a day for raising awareness and engaging in debate around the regulation of hemp and the derivatives of the plant, such as CBD. Pencil it in to your diary!