Happy High Day: But what does it mean?

420. It's a code-word, a cause for celebration and a way of life all at once. Falling on April 20th the number 420 has become the unofficial code-word for all things cannabis related.

From the aptly named 'Episode 420,' of Family Guy in which weed is legalized, to Californian senators even naming their Medicinal Marijuana Program Act as Bill 420, the number sees no shortage of use around this time of year.

So what does the number really mean?

Well, the truth is, a lot of people don't actually know. Some believe the number refers to Hitler's Birthday, while others unquestioningly accept that it's simply time to smoke some herb.

The real origins, however, are believed to have stemmed from a Californian group of students in Marin County named the 'Waldos' who would meet regularly at 4:20pm at a statue of Louis Pasteur at San Rafael High school in search of a rumoured cannabis plant that grew within the school grounds.

The 4/20 Creators and friends, The Waldos

The Waldos would frequently use the code-word '420' to inform one another when they would be searching for the plant, until eventually the term simply became slang for sparking up. With time and effort, the Waldos code-word grew larger and larger among locals until finally finding its way into 'High Times,' the holy book for ganja aficionados.

Since then, the time 4:20pm has become the globally recognized time to "blaze it."

And 4/20, April 20th, is now known as the unofficial Weed Day.

Each year as April 20th hits, many high profile (and just generally high) celebrities take to social media to proclaim their love for their green bud.

Last year Snoop Dogg, the unofficial torchbearer for all things cannabis related, posted an Instagram where he gestured 420 with his hands while singing on a plane, before making a second post where he announced his 5th annual '420 Wellness festival.'

Creator of the Cult Classic 'Pineapple Express' Seth Rogen

Seth Rogen also took to took to Instagram to write 'Happy 4/20. May you be lucky enough to find yourself somewhere that weed is plentiful and legal' alongside a photo of him smoking a joint.

And a project emerged last April 20th named BR x 4/20 where a dozen former NFL and NBA players, including Al Harrington, who played in 16 seasons for the NBA came out on video in support of cannabis legalisation and open dialogue around the substance.

Eight of the athletes sparked up a joint for the video.

But that was 2018.

And while there were massive strides last year, such as Canada legalizing Marijuana, Utah and Oklahoma welcoming Medicinal Marijuana, and California earning its spot as the biggest legal pot market, the hype around cannabis this year is set to get a whole lot higher.

So whether you're a consumer, an investor or a vendor, this 4/20 will have something for everyone. In the Bay Area of San Francisco, a company called #HellaFunny is hosting 'The First Annual SF Stoner Comedy Festival' where SF comedians share some of their favourite stoner stories. Admittedly it won't be a tough crowd to get a laugh out of either, as pre-rolls, vapes and CBD oils will be complimentary to the event.

High Times Magazine, who are largely to thank for the popularization of the term 420, will be hosting their 2nd ever 'Cannabis Cup' in Sacramento, where vendors, musicians, and smokers alike will converge to celebrate their love of the plant.

And some are even using the event to host viewings of the now comical film 'Reefer Madness' as a posthumous look at the absurd propaganda that plagued marijuana users at the start of the Drug War.

But what does this mean for those outside of places like Toronto and California, where cannabis isn't yet legal?

Just ask Australia, where cannabis is barely legal medicinally, despite the country being one of the highest recreational users of Cannabis in the world.

As a result, 4/20 is often used as a platform in countries where cannabis isn't yet legal, for people to publicly show their disapproval of the War on Drugs.

In fact, a 2015 protester on 4/20 at Sydney Town hall was filmed being arrested by the police for smoking a joint right in front of them and amassed over one million views on YouTube.

People such as Matt Riley, leader of Melbourne's Free Cannabis Community have taken to peaceful, pot-filled protests every 4/20 since 2011.

Veering quite radically from the traditional march-in-the-street protest, the event occurs between the 19th to the 24th of April and involves thousands of Melbournites smoking weed in the Flagstaff Gardens.

In 2017 Riley told Vice that "prohibition does more harm than good," and it's clear he isn't alone in his thinking. Similarly, each year in Nimbin, a Northern NSW town known as the 'Weed capital of Australia,' many partake in the '420 Nimbin Smoke-In.'

Hosted by the Nimbin Hemp Embassy, the event lives up to its name with eventgoers toking up as a sign of civil disobedience. Whether legal or not, a lot of eyes are on cannabis around 4/20, which is generally a good thing.

420 Rally host Matt Riley (right) with a fellow protester

The increased focus placed on cannabis in the form of protests and events will show legislators and politicians that the public is increasingly against the War on Drugs.

It also means for vendors that they'll get a lot more sales too, as 4/20 is known as the 'Black Friday' of cannabis retail sales. Stuart Titus, CEO of the Californian company Medicinal Marijuana Inc., refers to April 20th as "Our Oktoberfest and New Years all in one" and he isn't wrong.

In 2018, total cannabis related sales more than doubled on April 20th when compared with previous Fridays in Washington, Nevada, California, and Colorado. And, as shown in a report by FlowHub, the total 4/20 cannabis sales had already gone up a further 30% in comparison to 2017.

According to Marijuana Business Daily, the highest purchased product in Colorado was flower, which comprised 60.5% of sales in 2018. Concentrates followed in 2nd place at 27.1% and edibles came in third at 9.9%.

This year, however, it's going to be better. And by better, we mean a lot better.

This is the first 4/20 that falls on a Saturday, leading many to speculate that this will likely be the biggest day for Cannabis in history. Bloomberg suggests that US cannabis retailers should prepare for their sales to at least double on 4/20 as last year they rose 111%.

It is also the first 4/20 since Canada legalized Cannabis in October last year, which will undoubtedly result in a spike in purchases on the date across Canadian dispensaries.

Though due to their infancy with regards to legalization, Canadian vendors have largely been unable to meet the demands of the pot-smoking public, leaving many to return to procuring their product on the black market.

Because of this, it is unlikely Canada will be able to support as large a boost on 4/20 as their US counterparts. Nonetheless, the date will certainly be something worth keeping an eye on for all involved in the cannabis realm, be they recreational users, protesters, vendors or investors.

And with the retail market in full swing, 4/20 may be a good indicator for new and current investors in showing how much interest surrounds cannabis for 2019.

As heavy hitters such as the US company MedMen announce their preliminary Q3 sales at $36.6 Million, a 22% quarter-over-quarter increase, and Canadian cannabis giant Canopy Growth get closer to purchasing Acreage Holdings, the industry shows no signs of slowing.
All in all, 4/20 this year should shape up to be a great day for cannabis as visibility begets visibility.

The more celebrities, athletes, politicians and individuals who come together and announce their support of the amazing benefits surrounding Cannabis, the more light gets shone upon the plant.

And much like the plant itself, the industry only needs a little light to continue to grow.
Whether it be the industrial and renewable benefits of hemp as a paper, plastic, protein or clothing, or the medicinal effects of CBD, there are so many benefits to cannabis that can't be put back in the box once people are made aware of them.

And through this increased awareness and support of cannabis, we will continue to see the dying remnants of the drug war lose their grasp on policymakers, who simply cannot block out their voters' wishes any longer.

To all our readers, happy 420. Enjoy the day, responsibly.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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