A look at ‘420’

Published 8:00 am Saturday, March 25, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

If you’re over the age of 21 and you haven’t heard or know the term “420” then you are not as hip or progressive as you thought you were. 

For those that are unaware and for those who need a refresher course here is a little history/background on this very unique and special day. “420” is the “high holiday” for the Cannabis Community, that is joyously celebrated each spring on April 20th. This fun filled celebration however, in the scheme of things, is a relatively new development in the cannabis culture. Oh yes the 420 designation has been around for the past 40+ years or so but in the long cannabis timeline it is a relatively new development. You need to remember that cannabis has been used in society for over 10,000 years. It has only been the last 80-90 years that it has been wrongfully demonized and persecuted. 

So how did the magical date all come about? Well according to cannabis folklore, in 1971 a group of friends in the San Francisco suburbs, decided to meet up at 4:20PM every day after school, at the same location, to “light up” and pass around “doobies” and enjoy each other’s company. Well unlike our modern communications technology in 2023, in the 1970’s communications were slow or at times non-existent, so bad were the “underground communications” that the news of this cool 420 happening didn’t reach the folks on the east coast until the 80’s and most folks still didn’t get it. 

Back in Massachusetts (and I can imagine Michiana) where I spent my formative years, we never heard that term 420 until 10-15 years later. However similar to this northern California gathering, we too had a designated meet up location, the Mount Tom State Reservation in Holyoke, MA. Every day, especially Fridays and the weekends, friends would hop in their cars and head to the “Res” for a smoke out. Joints would be rolled, pipes would be filled and maybe even a rudimentary bong (that right bongs as they are known today didn’t exist until the 1980’s). 

It wasn’t really until the early 90’s, as the cannabis legalization drum beat started to gain momentum, that the 420 chant came to the east. “420” soon however became the “call signal”, the rally call, the underground wink and nod toward the cannabis community. By the mid-90’s, 420 started to become the holiday it is today. California, Colorado, Washington (State) embraced the date and started 420 themed events and gatherings. Most of these happenings are still being held today to promote both the culture and the expanding industry. 

Here in Michigan (Michiana) 420 is celebrated in a variety ways, small gatherings and parties are usually organized for a communal experience. Michigan  has its own unique take on Cannabis Holiday, instead of April 20th, the “Hash Bash” has been held for the last 52 years on the first Saturday in April on the Diag at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. This event was originally organized to show support for Cannabis icon/hero John Sinclair, who had been arrested and sentenced the previous year, in Ann Arbor to a 10 year prison sentence for the possession of just two joints. Once John was freed from this travesty of justice (they actually got Ann Arbor to decriminalize cannabis, only a $5 fine, in 1972), the Hash Bash continued with a renewed focus of “legalization”. That goal was achieved twice, once in 2008 with the semi-legalization of Medical Cannabis and again in 2018 with the full legalization of Adult Use. The Party in Ann Arbor has changed a bit since legalization. Up to that point the Hash Bash was a peaceful protest of the draconian laws governing cannabis however starting with the 2019 Bash it has become a true cannabis party. A true day to celebrate the end (at least in Michigan) of the ugly and unjust war on Cannabis. Combined with the Monroe Street Fair (40-50 cannabis themed vendors), the Ann Arbor event now draws close to 20,000 attendees to commune with a plant that has been so maligned for so very long. If you haven’t experienced this happening and are part of the culture, I would strongly recommend attending this year’s Bash on the Diag April 1st, I’ll be there! Happy trails! 

George Lynch is the owner of Green Stem Provisioning in Niles. He loves to share his  knowledge and passion for cannabis and to dispel the misinformation surrounding the cannabis plant.