New York Joins Colorado and California with Huge 4/20 Smoke-Out

NYC 4/20/22 at Washington Square Park (CelebStoner photo)

The first 4:20 on 4/20 smoke sessions took place "in Marin County at the Bolinas Ridge sunset spot on Mt. Tamalpais," according to the original 420 flyer distributed at Grateful Dead shows in 1990. 

They were small gatherings of friends. Mt. Tam has views of the Pacific Ocean to the West and San Francisco to the South. It's a fantastic spot for a sesh.

"Take extra care that nothing is going to go wrong within that minute," the flyer advised. "No heavy winds, no cops, no messed-up lighters."

As 420 eventually started to catch on in the late '90s, 4/20 events began to pop up. I attended one organized by CAN that featured the Waldos, credited with coining the term, in San Francisco around that time.

Boulder 4/20/13 on the campus of the University of California (Getty image)

But the best 4/20 events were to come when students at the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of California in Santa Cruz organized campus smoke-outs in the late 2000s. I attended several in Boulder.

Unlike today's commercial events with bands, speakers and vendors, these 4/20 blowouts were more in the style of flash-mobs. No stage or amplified announcements and music. No sponsors. No leaders.

This happened in New York yesterday on 4/20 in Washington Square Park. A large crowd of stoners - I'd estimate about 10,000 - gathered spontaneously for New York's first post-legalization smoke-out.

Vendors selling cannabis products (lots of pre-rolls) circled the fountain that faces the arch looking North.

As 4:20 approached, clouds of smoke hung over the jubilant crowd. It reminded me of Boulder, only there were mountains in the distance, not buildings.

It's a gray-market currently in New York as cannabis regulations are slowly rolling out. But legal pot shops for adult recreational use will not start dotting the urban landscape until later this year and 2023. It's created a free-for-all environment that was apparent in Washington Square.

Never too happy about the 4/20 event on campus, University of Colorado officials ironically shut it down  post-legalization there in 2014. Now, Denver hosts the Mile High 420 Festival.

Hippie Hill 4/20/22 in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park (photo courtesy of Patricia Beam Huff)

Meanwhile, 420 Hippie Hill in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park remains one of the last flash-mob style 4/20 events, though it now has a stage with speakers and music.

4/20 is now a day for commercial events, but sometimes stoners just decide to do their own thing like what happened in New York on Wednesday. 


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.