What does 420 mean? Here's what to know about the 'weed holiday'

Are you "420 friendly?" Here's what to know about the term, an upcoming "holiday" celebrating marijuana, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians' new N.C. dispensary and more.

According to previous reporting by the Citizen Times, the EBCI plans to launch the Great Smoky Cannabis Co. dispensary on April 20. It will be the first marijuana dispensary to open in North Carolina after the EBCI approved the sale of medical marijuana in 2021.

In case you didn't pick it up, their launch date is 4/20/24 – a date celebrated by weed-smokers nationwide. So what's the significance of that number?

What does 420 mean?

There are plenty of stories out there about exactly why the number 420 (and date April 20) are associated with marijuana. While there's no definitive answer to its original significance, one of the most popular theories ties the number and date to a group of Californian teenagers.

According to the lore, a group of high schoolers attending Northern California's San Rafael High School in the early 1970s would regularly gather at 4:20 p.m. to smoke pot.

April 20 is regarded by many cannabis enthusiasts as not only a day to appreciate the plant, but a rallying date for the nationwide legalization of marijuana.

Cannabis plants grow in a cultivation tent at Prolific Growhouse in Mount Holly, NJ on Thursday, April 4, 2024.
Cannabis plants grow in a cultivation tent at Prolific Growhouse in Mount Holly, NJ on Thursday, April 4, 2024.

Is weed legal in North Carolina?

Marijuana is not legal in N.C. It is decriminalized, however, meaning possession of small amounts intended for personal use rather than illegal sales will generally mean punishments of civil or local infractions rather than state crimes.

Industrial hemp – marijuana with no THC – is legal in NC. Additionally, a popular loophole in hemp legislation has made it possible to get legally stoned. It is illegal to grow cannabis plants with more than a 0.3% concentration of delta-9 THC. Delta-8 THC, however, is not mentioned in the legislation.

Delta-8 is one of over 100 cannabinoids produced by cannabis plants, and while it is usually not found in high amounts, many N.C. hemp businesses have begun extracting the compound from plants or converting other compounds like CBD into delta-8. If you've seen weed sold at gas stations, tobacco stores or anywhere else, it's likely psychoactive "delta-8" or a similar compound.

It's worth mentioning that, while delta-8 causes a "high," the FDA has not evaluated or approved it as safe for consumption, meaning that delta-8 products are not regulated by the FDA and could therefore be harmful to your health.

Is marijuana legal in Cherokee, NC?

Finally, the EBCI voted in 2021 to legalize the sale of medical marijuana within its tribal territory known as the Qualla Boundary. Cherokee is a sovereign nation that has its own elections, laws, government and institutions that are self-governed and autonomous. That's why it can make legal the sale of marijuana despite being within North Carolina.

The Great Smoky Cannabis Co., which will open on 4/20, will be the EBCI's first dispensary. Visitors of 21 and older can shop there, though only after being issued a medical cannabis patient card by the tribe’s Cannabis Control Board.

What states is marijuana legal in 2024?

Here's a list of states that have legalized recreational cannabis, plus the years that they each made it legal.

  • Ohio: 2023

  • Minnesota: 2023

  • Delaware: 2023

  • Rhode Island: 2022

  • Maryland: 2022

  • Missouri: 2022

  • Connecticut: 2021

  • New Mexico: 2021

  • New York: 2021

  • Virginia: 2021

  • Arizona: 2020

  • Montana: 2020

  • New Jersey: 2020

  • Vermont: 2020

  • Illinois: 2019

  • Michigan: 2018

  • California: 2016

  • Maine: 2016

  • Massachusetts: 2016

  • Nevada: 2016

  • District of Columbia: 2014

  • Alaska: 2014

  • Oregon: 2014

  • Colorado: 2012

  • Washington: 2012

Additionally, the following states have legalized medical marijuana:

  • Mississippi: 2022

  • Alabama: 2021

  • South Dakota: 2020

  • Missouri: 2018

  • Oklahoma: 2018

  • Utah: 2018

  • Iowa: 2017

  • West Virginia: 2017

  • Arkansas: 2016

  • Florida: 2016

  • North Dakota: 2016

  • Ohio: 2016

  • Pennsylvania: 2016

  • Georgia: 2015

  • Louisiana: 2015

  • Minnesota: 2014

  • Maryland: 2013

  • New Hampshire: 2013

  • Delaware: 2011

  • Rhode Island: 2006

  • Hawaii: 2000

Contributing: Orlando Mayorquin and Anna Kaufman, USA TODAY

Iris Seaton is the trending news reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach her at iseaton@citizentimes.com.

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: 420 is known as a weed holiday: Are cannabis, marijuana legal in NC?