Whether you want to celebrate legalization or protest stigma, 4/20 is the national holiday for Canadian cannabis lovers.
There’s a lot of mythology around the number 420 and how it became synonymous with cannabis culture.
Some say “We’ve got a ‘420’” was originally police radio code for calling in “Marijuana Smoking in Progress” to dispatch.
Others say it originated in the 1970s as a covert code for California students who met up every day after class (at 4:20 pm) for a ritual session.
Regardless of how “420” became a shorthand term for all-things-cannabis, it’s definitely not much of a secret code anymore.
South of the border, it’s even made it into official U.S. government legislation.
In 2003, California passed its first law approving medical cannabis – an historic piece of legislation known as Bill SB420.
In January 2019, a new bill was filed for approval by the U.S. Congress to remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act, known as H.R. 420.
For at least a quarter-century, activists across Canada have claimed April 20th (that’s 4/20 on the calendar if you haven’t caught on yet) as a day of protest and civil disobedience against the policy of cannabis prohibition.
Now that the goal of cannabis legalization is a reality, consuming in public is no longer an act of civil disobedience in most Canadian communities.
Which means this year’s 420 events will probably be a lot more celebratory than they have been in the past.
That said, many 420 organizers continue to consider their events as protests, pointing out there is still a lot of stigma and misinformation to overcome.
Whether you personally feel like it’s a day for anti-stigma protest or a day for celebrating cannabis culture (or both!), there’s likely a 420 event being organized somewhere near you.
If there isn’t one in your area, you should consider organizing your own!
For those in search of a truly epic opportunity to commemorate the first 420 post-legalization, here’s our list of the top five 420 events happening around the country on Saturday, April 20th, 2019.
Good Vibes Only Festival (London, ON)
The Good Vibes Only Festival in London, Ontario is the closest 420 party for people in Stratford (the city GreenSeal Cannabis Co. is proud to call home).
This year’s event is described as a “two-day multi-sensory festival experience with two stages of non-stop music, live painting, local craft vendors, fantastic art displays, and all sorts of other festival awesomeness!!”
#GVOFest2019 is taking place in a brand-new venue at The Woodfield (493 Queen’s Ave.), with more than 20 bands and DJs slated to perform over two days full of “Music, Art, Love.”
Our favourite Bob Marley tribute band – Mob Barley and the Railers – is headlining and will be hitting the stage at 5 pm on Saturday (perfect timing for those who just partook in the nationwide 4:20 pm spark-up).
Click the link for tickets or for more information about the Good Vibes Only Festival 2019.
420 Music & Arts Festival (Calgary, AB)
The 420 Music & Arts Festival is “Returning in a haze of smoke” for its 3rd year in Calgary, Alberta, from April 18th to 20th.
The 2019 festival lineup features a mix of homegrown and international bands, who will all be performing at the County Line Saloon.
For the first time this year, the 420 Music & Arts Festival also includes a Pin Ball Tournament (April 20th at the Pin-Bar), and a Beard Contest (April 20th at the County Line Saloon).
There’s also a free Festival Expo with cannabis-friendly vendors, artists, and food trucks at the Town & Country Hotel (April 19th, 4-10pm; April 20th, 1-10pm).
According to the event’s press release, “The 420 Music & Arts Festival is a Calgary-based festival owned and organized locally. The Festival founders created the unique annual event as a medium to unite music, artists and both medical and recreational cannabis with a focus on changing common stereotypes.”
For tickets or more information, check out the 420 Music & Arts Festival’s website.
420 Ottawa (Parliament Hill, Ottawa, ON)
What better place could there be to mark Canada’s first-ever post-legalization 4/20 than our nation’s capital?
For years, pro-cannabis activists have been congregating on April 20th on the front steps of Canada’s Parliament Buildings to protest the country’s policy of prohibition.
When we contacted the organizers, they emphasized the political nature of the event, “Nowhere else in the world do people get to come this close to their country’s highest level of government and protest like this!
“It’s something every true cannabis connoisseur should experience at least once, and by default you become an honorary activist of epic proportions.
“Not many folks can say they walked up the front steps of Parliament Hill and sparked up in civil disobedience!”
When we asked if the “Fight the Power!” tone might be a bit different now that the goal of legalization has been achieved, the organizers said they were shifting the focus towards making the public aware of misinformation being disseminated about cannabis.
The event will feature musical guests including the Earth Dwellers and the hip-hop artist Bowden (Ottawa’s 2018 Artist of the Year according to Face magazine).
420 Ottawa is a free event and takes place on Parliament Hill between 2 pm and 5 pm. You can find more info on the event’s Facebook page.
HotBox 420 Block Party (Kensington Market, Toronto, ON)
According to the HotBox Café’s hilarious graffiti-style sign in Toronto’s Kensington Market, it’s been “serving potheads since… ah, I forget.”
Well, since this year’s HotBox 420 Block Party is celebrating its 19th anniversary, we can safely say it’s been serving potheads since at least the year 2000.
This year the HotBox crew (led by the tireless activist/trailblazer Abi Roach) will be taking over Augusta Ave. from 1 pm to 10 pm.
The BYOW event is free for anyone 19+, with 9 hours of bass-heavy live music and DJs as well as a joint-rolling competition, a bong clearing contest, and lots of giveaways.
Attendees can even try out Canada’s first “Potio” – the HotBox café’s cannabis-smoke-friendly back patio!
Vancouver 420 (Sunset Beach Park, Vancouver, BC)
Nobody beats Vancouver when it comes to 4/20 gatherings, and 2019 certainly looks like it will be no exception.
In fact, the 25th anniversary of the annual 420 Vancouver “Protest + Farmer’s Market” promises to be even more epic than it’s ever been before.
Which is a huge expectation, considering over 100,000 people came through the Sunset Beach Park venue over the course of last year’s event.
But last year’s event didn’t have Cypress Hill as the headlining musical act!
The first band to take cannabis to the mainstream is the perfect act to ring in 4:20 pm at what could very well be the world’s biggest 420 event.
The cloud of smoking rising from the crowd at that moment will probably be spotted by weather radar satellites!
“What are you doing for 420?”
That’s the question everyone in the Canadian cannabis community is asking each other in the week leading up to Saturday April 20th.
So – what are YOU doing?
We’d love to hear about everyone’s plans in the comments below.
In particular, we’d like people to share 420 events happening in regions we didn’t mention here, like Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the East Coast, and the North!
Or if you’re from somewhere other than Canada, let us know how you plan to mark 420 in your community!