Happy National Cheetos Appreciation Day 4/20, Philly.

Welcome to the one pseudo-international holiday made by and for stoners. And while Philadelphians will undoubtedly be lighting up today in celebration of the city’s decriminalization of marijuana, it’s also a huge day for activism.

Here’s a look at what’s going on today in Philly (as well as everything you need to about 420):

Philly-area gatherings

Chris Goldstein, co-chair of local cannabis legalization group Philly NORML, said educational events as well as local protests will take place throughout the day. But this year, he’s not promoting a smoke-down prohibition event since he’s currently on probation for toking up on federal lands… twice. (Because the Liberty Bell is on federal land!)

He also noted that area establishments will have munchies available for stoners partaking in the day’s festivities, including South Philadelphia Tap Room, which will serve fried peanut butter and jelly, apple-ricotta donuts and warm brownies. Mmmm.


Goldstein highlighted a series of talks and workshops happening all day today at he Community College of Philadelphia during “The 420 Conference” put on by the Marijuana Law Center. Conference speakers include a deputy district attorney, a deputy police commissioner and Goldstein himself. Topics include juvenile justice, citywide surveys, statewide laws and more. Find more information here.


Independence National Mall Historic Park: Goldstein said Philly NORML will have folks holding signs near Fifth and Market streets in the federal free speech zone to raise awareness about legalization efforts. That’ll take place at 4:20 p.m., natch.

Penn Treaty Park: Activists from the East Coast Cannabis Coalition will hold the “City of Brotherly Bud” from 3 to 6 p.m. today at the Fishtown park along the Delaware River.

Trenton: The guy known in stoner groups as NJWeedMan organized a #LegalizeNJ protest and march taking place today at the Statehouse. Find more information on that here.

Harrisburg: Medical marijuana activists from the Campaign 4 Compassion are staging a 420 rally in Harrisburg near the capitol this afternoon.

What’s 420, anyway?

April 20 marks International Marijuana Day each year, but don’t you dare call it that. It’s pronounced “Four Twenty” and, according to Goldstein, has been celebrated for more than three decades.

According to a Q&A Goldstein did with weed author Steve Bloom for Philly.com, 420 started off as a gathering time for local stoners in a small group in California. Bloom, who was an editor at the High Times, saw a flyer about 420 during a Grateful Dead concert in 1990, took it back to his office, and the staff printed more, giving the day some national cred.

420 was adopted by activists and the High Times and spread quickly as a date (and a time of day) to toke up with other pot enthusiasts. Now, it’s turned into a huge time for national and international convergence.

Why it matters in Philly this year

Goldstein, the Philly NORML pot activist, stressed that this year’s 420 is in some ways more meaningful than in the past since Philly decriminalized the possession of a small amount of marijuana last fall — a step in the right direction for legalization efforts.

“The most important takeaway is this is the first 420 in Philly since decriminalization,” he said, “even though Philly is generally a friendly town for this even before we changed the law.”

Unsurprisingly, the number of marijuana-related arrests in Philadelphia took a sharp decline since decriminalization went into effect, as possession of anything less than an ounce of marijuana can result in a summary citation and a $25 ticket.

In the first month after decriminalization went into effect, arrests for marijuana possession took a 78 percent nosedive. In addition, the city’s saving a bunch of money and officials say it’s a gateway to better police-community relations.

While Goldstein said NORML is happy about decriminalization efforts, the group is still full-steam-ahead and pushing for legalization.

Anna Orso was a reporter/curator at Billy Penn from 2014 to 2017.