This time last year, the COVID-19 pandemic was heating up and public events were rapidly issuing cancellations. 4/20, the high holiday for cannabis enthusiasts, was no exception. The usual bevy of dispensary sales, rallies, concerts, and hazy gatherings that typically take place around the world on April 20th went online instead, with cannabis consumers connecting digitally rather than filling parks to puff-puff-pass.
But now that mask mandates are holding out and vaccination efforts are in full swing (in the United States, at least), will smokers and tokers be able to get back together to celebrate 4/20 in person? Like so many things, from the pandemic response to marijuana legalization, it depends on where you live.
Large gatherings are still verboten in many places, even if they’re outdoors. San Francisco, for example, has cancelled 4/20/21 this year (as much as it can, anyways) by discouraging denizens from communing in Golden Gate Park as per decades-long tradition. The San Francisco Police Department tweeted the day prior “take the high road this year and celebrate #420 with your buds next year.”
The city’s parks and recreation department put up fences around Robin Williams Meadow to discourage would-be revelers, and also hopped on Twitter to remind disappointed stoners that “those celebrating at home can access free comedy, music, and more at 420hippiehill.com.”
Meanwhile in Chicago, which lacks San Francisco’s long, colorful history of drug culture – and where cannabis was only recently legalized – there are still some hopes that smaller, more subdued gatherings might still take place.
Some local business owners are planning chill game nights, pop-up shops, movie nights, and patio hangouts. For them, 4/20 isn’t about getting righteously blazed as much as it’s about drawing attention to persistent inequalities in both the cannabis industry and in how anti-drug legislation has been enforced for decades.
It’s also a chance for marketing, PR, and destigmatization in a state where the cannabis industry is just a year old, and is still trying to establish itself. In that regard, Chicago isn’t alone in its hopes to do a little something for 4/20. Other newly legal states are hoping 4/20 will be a chance to make their presence known.
Dispensaries in Massachusetts, for example, are offering educational information, live music, and treats from food trucks in hopes of connecting with customers.
In Arizona, where prohibition ended less than six months ago, 4/20 serves as a chance for many dispensaries and head shops to soft launch or throw grand opening bashes. Several of those shops are even going toe-to-toe in the Errl Cup a few days after 4/20 to see which dispensary is running smoke rings around the competition.
Some states like Connecticut, where efforts to legalize recreational weed have stalled out, 4/20 is a chance for activists to press their case, with a rally planned outside government offices in Hartford, followed by a barbecue.
Denver is also taking 4/20 quite seriously, though cannabis has been legal in Colorado since 2012. Their calendar includes a Black Cannabis Equity Initiative Talk co-hosted by Black Cannabis Equity Initiative and Minorities for Medical Marijuana.
In nearby Lakewood, a combination 4/20 and Earth Day event will draw attention to conservation and wellness. Private cannabis consumption lounges have more of a party atmosphere in mind, with live music and joint-rolling showcases planned.
For those still concerned about gathering in crowds, or who don’t yet live in a legal state, an online version of the annual Spliff Film Festival will be running through Sunday, April 24. Also online will be an event hosted by none other than Snoop Dogg, with appearances by A$AP Rocky, G-Eazy, and Jhené Aiko, along with cannabis cooking demonstrations.
The United States isn’t the only country where cannabis enthusiasts are trying to figure out how to celebrate 4/20 when the pandemic isn’t quite over. Leaders in Vancouver, Canada have announced no official events will be taking place, and have expressed concern that revelers may try to show up at Sunset Beach, an annual gathering spot, despite warnings about the continued risk of congregating in large crowds.
In other words, it looks like cannabis fans will have to roll their own 4/20 celebration this year – whether that means partaking in a public gathering, calling up their local lawmakers, supporting a local dispensary, or digitally synchronizing bong hits.