4/20: The Next National Holiday?


4/20, the unofficial holiday for cannabis culture, is here. While the exact origins of 4/20 are not known for sure, most trace the roots of 4/20 to California where in 1971 a group of high school students, known as the Waldos, would meet every afternoon at 4:20 pm, after extracurricular activities, to smoke grass.

The term spread outside of California with the help of the Grateful Dead, and after a story about the Waldos appeared in High Times. 4:20 became known as an “accepted” hour to use cannabis, and April 20th (4/20) became known as the unofficial time to gather with fellow bud-aficionados to smoke up! While its roots lay in North America, 4/20 is not confined to Canada and the United States – in 2014, the celebration of wacky tobacky was held all over the globe, from Peru to New Zealand, South Africa to Denmark, Italy to Austria.

North Americans are reasonably aware of 4/20 and cannabis sub-culture

With 4/20 just around the corner, Maru/Matchbox conducted a survey of 1,500 Canadians and 1,500 Americans to gauge awareness of this upcoming cannabis counter culture pseudo-holiday. While not all will be participating in 4/20, the data (representative of the Canadian and American population) reveal that the majority of North Americans (6-in-10) have heard of 4/20 and know what it stands for – with younger, more highly educated, and higher-income individuals having a higher level of awareness. It is somewhat surprising that North American baby boomers were unable to accurately identify 4/20, given the origins of 4/20 in the 1970s.

From among the 6-in-10 who claim to be aware of what 4/20 is, the vast majority (9-in-10) did correctly make the connection between the event and cannabis. While 25% were able to connect 4/20 to cannabis but not able to offer any further detail, two-thirds (65%) correctly identified various components of 4/20, including:

  • A time to smoke weed (4:20 pm after school)
  • A day to celebrate cannabis/cannabis culture (April 20th)
  • An event which contains elements of protest, gathering together to rebel against the lack of legalization of cannabis
  • A general celebration of marijuana

Among the 1-in-10 who thought they knew what 4/20 was but actually did not, some thought it referred to an upcoming religious holiday (Passover or Easter), and others assumed it referred to a historical figure’s birthday (Adolf Hitler or Bob Marley). However, while most have heard of 4/20 and can connect it with cannabis, three-quarters do not know any details about the origins of 4/20.

Anyone who enjoys a good toke!

When asked who commonly celebrates 4/20, North Americans used a variety of terminology ranging from “pot smokers” to “stoners”, “cannabis enthusiasts” to “marijuana activists” – but regardless of the actual terminology used, 8-in-10 accurately identified those who commonly celebrate 4/20 – anyone who enjoys a good toke!

The political nature of 4/20 also arose, with mentions of hippies, and those against global warming being key participants. Canadians are more inclusive than Americans when thinking about 4/20, with nearly twice as many Canadians viewing 4/20 as inclusive; many say this pseudo-holiday is suitable for “anyone and everyone” – an event perceived as being non-discriminatory and open to “all ages and all walks of life”.

With cannabis being legalized in states across the U.S., and in the entirety of Canada, many wonder about how the meaning and nature of 4/20 will change now that cannabis is legalized. Will “pot smokers” and “cannabis enthusiasts” continue to embrace 4/20 as a celebration of cannabis sub-culture, now that it is legal? Will the holiday fade or will it take on a new meaning?

While it is not certain how 4/20 will evolve in the coming years, with 4-in-10 North Americans using or open to using cannabis, the potential that someone you know will be partaking in this upcoming holiday is higher than it ever has been. Whether you like to smoke it, vape it, or consume it – Happy 4/20!

To learn more about how Americans and Canadians perceive cannabis, in general, and relative to cannabis beverages, tobacco and vaping in particular, download our free Cannabis Chronicle reports.

Cannabis Chronicle Reports

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