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Cannabis History: How 4/20 Became a Symbol of Acceptance and Advocacy


Few dates hold as much significance as April 20th, more affectionately known as 4/20, in the cannabis world. What began as a covert meeting time for a group of high school students has evolved into a massive celebration of cannabis culture. (If only they knew…)

Today, 4/20 is observed by consumers and cannabis professionals alike – and the event seems to grow larger in scale every year. Around the world, the holiday has become a symbol of the journey toward destigmatization and cultural acceptance of cannabis. 

What better way to show the evolution of cannabis culture than by watching a once-frowned-upon holiday (meant only for “stoners”) become a global phenomenon? 

As permeating as this day has become in past years, many consumers (seasoned or new) wonder about its origins. Let’s take a deep dive into how 4/20 came to be, why it’s so significant for cannabis culture, and how you can celebrate it this year:

What is the history behind 4/20?

The origins of 4/20 go back to the early 1970s when a group of high school students known as the Waldos from San Rafael High School in California began to meet at 4:20 pm after school in search of a patch of cannabis on the Point Reyes Peninsula.

According to the official Waldos website, “The Waldos all agreed to meet at 4:20 pm at the statue of chemist Louis Pasteur on the campus of San Rafael High. They met, got high, and drove out to search for the patch.”

As the search progressed, they regularly used the term ‘420 Louie’ to remind each other when and where to meet after school. Eventually, they dropped the ‘Louie’ and just said ‘420’ to refer to cannabis, the evolution of their inside joke.

Soon after, the slang was picked up by others within their circle. In fact, the group has documented proof of its use in personal letters, newspaper articles, and more during those early days. Before they knew it, the term spread from generation to generation, city to city, country to country, across decades, and throughout all media around the globe.

What’s fascinating about this origin story is that it was initially dismissed as a mere “stoner reference,” a niche, counterculture term. 

However, that all changed when one of the Waldos became a roadie for Grateful Dead and started circulating flyers at shows all about 4:20. The term quickly gained traction among the Grateful Dead community and led to a reporter sharing one of the flyers in High Times and the Huffington Post.

Today, as more states legalize recreational cannabis, “4/20” has transcended its origins to become a much more inclusive holiday, celebrated with enthusiasm and creativity by individuals from all walks of life. 

The Waldos of San Rafael High School


Why is 4/20 so significant?

Today, 4/20 represents not only a day of communal enjoyment but also a celebration of cannabis culture’s resilience and evolution.

As the annual celebration continues to gain momentum, its significance represents a milestone in the growing acceptance of cannabis. Each year, the event and its celebrations draw increased attention from consumers, businesses, and policymakers alike. 

For dispensaries like ours at The Pass, 4/20 presents a unique opportunity to showcase our offerings and connect with our community in meaningful ways.

Not to mention, the heightened demand for cannabis products leading up to and during the 4/20 celebrations translates into increased sales and revenue, which directly supports the local ecosystem, including municipal expenses, community initiatives and resources, employee wages and benefits, and more. 

Ultimately, the celebration of 4/20 empowers dispensaries like The Pass to continue delivering high-quality cannabis products year-round. The increased visibility and consumer engagement during this time allow us to refine our offerings, strengthen our partnerships, and elevate the standard of excellence in the cannabis industry. 

By embracing the spirit of 4/20 and its broader implications, we can collectively shape a future where cannabis is celebrated, respected, and accessible to all.


Ways to Celebrate 4/20

As nature and culture enthusiasts here at The Pass, we encourage our customers to celebrate 4/20 locally. Stock up on your favorite cannabis products and accessories, and then head out to enjoy the beauty of the local Berkshires area. 

Accessible from Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut, we have plenty of exciting things to do nearby before or after consumption. If you’re celebrating in the Berkshires or beyond, be sure to check out Massachusetts cannabis laws

Here are some things you can do to celebrate 4/20 in the Berkshires:

Explore Nature with Cannabis

It’s no secret that the Berkshires are filled with activities to do in nature. From the local parks to the hiking trails, there is an endless variety of scenic spots where you can enjoy nature and cannabis simultaneously.

We love the area’s trails so much that we crafted our TrailBlazers 0.5g mini-pre-rolls for this exact reason. When you buy one of our 5-packs, a percentage of the sale goes toward the Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC), which preserves and maintains many of the trails located in the Berkshires.

Our staff recommends exploring Mt. Greylock. At 3,491 feet, it is the highest point in Massachusetts. On a clear day, you can see as far as 90 miles away from its peak. 

However, this 5.5-mile out-and-back trail is considered a challenging route, taking an average of 4 hours to complete. Therefore, avoid making the full hike while consuming, unless you’re a pro in both hiking and consuming. 

If you’re looking for something closer to our dispensary location in Sheffield, we recommend Bartholomew’s Cobble and Dry Hill. You can also check out the BNRC’s recommended trails for more suggestions.

You can always set up a picnic at a local park, enjoy the trail, and unwind in your private residence. Regardless of how you choose to explore nature with cannabis, be sure to give it the respect it deserves. 

Public spaces or not, don’t forget to pick up after yourself and be aware of the environment. 


Experience Art & History with Cannabis

Many consumers know that the ‘high’ you experience from cannabis allows recreational activities such as making or viewing art much more enjoyable. This is likely because the effects of cannabis amplify your senses. 

Whether it’s music, a social gathering, or art, the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts have a wealth of events to enjoy. 

Our staff at The Pass recommends: 

  • Tanglewood – The famous music venue and festival that has been the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1937. 
  • Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) – A factory-building-turned-museum, MASS MoCA is one of the largest centers for contemporary visual art and performing arts in the United States.
  • Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center – An intimate local performance theater in Great Barrington that features nighttime theatre, music, and dance, and has had virtually continuous operation since its construction in 1905.
  • Norman Rockwell Museum – Home of the American painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell, who was commissioned to illustrate works like the Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn book covers and famous presidential portraits, this museum features the works of Rockwell.
  • Clark Art Institute – Known as one of the few institutions in the United States that combines a public art museum with research and academic programs, The Clark, famous for its impressionist art collection, is a leading international center for research and discussion on the nature of art and art history.

The best part is all of these are near our dispensary location. For more 4/20 ideas, check out the official list of things to do in the Berkshires.

Enjoy The Berkshires

The Berkshires overall is internationally renowned for its natural beauty, rich history, and picturesque New England towns. There is no shortage of things to do to enjoy 4/20 on your own terms.

Take a scenic drive, set up a picnic, head to a local spa, the list goes on. Whenever you come into town, visit us at The Pass in Sheffield to shop our deals and stock up.

Again, be sure to consume responsibly. Driving while under the influence of cannabis is strictly prohibited

Join The Pass Berkshires for 4/20 

Our team at The Pass knows how important this holiday is for the industry and our customers. We’re proud to serve you with the best products, including our in-house collections and renowned brands. 

There are always exciting annual celebrations, pop-up events, and special deals happening in our store, especially during 4/20. You can sign up for our newsletter or SMS notifications to get real-time updates on everything.

You can also browse our menu online or visit us in-store at our Berkshire dispensary to hear from our budtenders about this year’s 4/20 specials. 

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