April 20 is the unofficial holiday for weed enthusiasts everywhere. Known better by its numerical nomenclature, 4/20, the day’s origins seem to have evolved into a trend the same way trends often do, by teenagers. But a group of kids in the 1970s couldn’t have foreseen that only 40 years later, the illegal, Schedule 1 drug, marijuana, would be something that is deemed legally essential during a pandemic.
Since California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use in 1996, 22 more states have followed suit, legalizing the drug for those who have a doctor’s prescription. According to Leafly, 11 states plus Washington D.C legalized the use of the plant for recreational purposes for adults 21 and over, making legal access to marijuana available in 33 states and in D.C.
Marijuana Business Daily reports that while most states are keeping their medical marijuana dispensaries open during the coronavirus pandemic- deeming them medically essential- only eight of the states with legal recreational marijuana are allowing pot shops to stay open. Because marijuana is not legal at the federal level, each state government decides how to handle the availability of legal weed for their own constituents.
Like all things coronavirus, some of the rules depend on where you live. But that’s not stopping hundreds of thousands of marijuana smokers from finding ways to commemorate 4/20. #Happy420 and #420Day Tweets are trending high on Twitter, illustrating that people all over are still celebrating the day of all things marijuana- even amidst a global pandemic.
Here Is How People Are Celebrating 4/20 Amid Social Distancing Orders
This being the year 2020, the unofficial holiday was gearing up for its biggest year ever, according to Ganjapreneur, who put out a list of how people are celebrating the holiday virtually this year. The website points out that “in addition to the month and year aligning to 4/20 for the entire month of April, you may have also heard that on 4/20/2020 at 4:20, there will be four 20’s.”
The virtual celebrations include things like benefit ‘concerts’ with celebrity appearances to raise money for first responders and for Feeding America. There is a virtual joint passing circle that will feature Willie Nelson as a member of the circle. There are DJ’s streaming live music, and educational live streams from black women in the cannabis industry. Another seven-hour forum will talk about “wellness strategies, holistic mindsets, and the decriminalization of cannabis and psychedelics for the first ever 420 Convergence.”
A Miami Herald reporter asked people on Facebook how they would spend 4/20 while practicing social distancing. While marijuana is only legal with a prescription in Florida, medical marijuana users said they might do things like have video chats or hang out with neighbors while staying 6 feet apart. Others said they would spend time in their kitchens making marijuana-infused butter and foods.
4/20 Is a Big Day For the Cannabis Industry, But It’s Still Unclear How the Industry Will Fare During the Pandemic
When the pandemic started becoming a reality in the United States, people instinctively stocked up on supplies they believed they’d need to help them ride-out the stay-at-home orders for an indefinite amount of time. Booze, toilet paper, and meat products seemed to top a lot of people’s lists judging from sales reports and empty store shelves. For marijuana users, another important thing to have plenty of was the cannabis products they used regularly.
This past March the Cannabis Industry saw huge spikes in sales, according to the U.S. News & World Report. A small study by Marijuana America showed that just less than 50% of marijuana users surveyed stocked up on pot, and over half of those people said it was to keep themselves calm during the outbreak. Another 23% said they bought extra out of fear of the pandemic and worry that there could be a marijuana shortage. The rest said they “didn’t even care but just wanted to stock up on some marijuana to chill at home,” according to the report.
While many states saw huge increases in sales in mid-to-late March, those same states are seeing a drop in revenue numbers now. According to the Associated Press, “business generally has flattened or tapered off, even with deliveries and curbside pickups growing to reduce health risks. Marijuana data trackers BDS Analytics documented sales surges through much of March, but then consumers pulled back in late March and early April, with sales mostly below average.”
Motley Fool says there are two likely reasons marijuana sales decreased in April; job losses due to the pandemic mean that many people have less money to spend on weed, or, they say maybe a lot of people stocked up and it’s more like the toilet paper phenomenon- once people are stocked up for a while they don’t need to buy it all the time.
What will happen going forward is anyone’s guess, as the legal marijuana industry is relatively new and like everything else around the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a lot of unknowns.
Steve White, CEO of Arizona-based Harvest Health & Recreation, a cannabis company, told the AP he’s “watching to see if consumers treat marijuana more like beer or toilet paper when money runs short,” because as the AP reports, “when the economy tumbles, beer sales traditionally spike. With toilet paper, panic-buying might empty shelves but people do not use more of it. They just buy less later.