COVID-19 Halts Historic 420 Events Around The Country, But We Still Gotta Celebrate. Here’s Why.

Warming sunny days are the signal to the twitterpated lovers of fun and nature and music to come out and play. Bookings for performers, vendors, DJ’s and food trucks would normally be in full swing this time of year, party planners and benefactors clinking their glasses of bubbly, savoring the bright tang of triumph flavoring each delicate sip. Rather than reveling in the colorful jubilance of spring, more than 70 million were adversely affected when fears of spreading Coronavirus (COVID-19) led to the rescheduling and cancellations of events around the globe. Despite protests, Americans are now expected to follow stay-at-home orders in all but 7 US states, unless they work at an essential business, have an important errand such as a Dr.’s appointment, or are gathering essential items. Social distancing, a construct is also helping to discourage gatherings, public or otherwise. 

Edging closer to the 2-month mark of our uphill battle against the deadly airborne virus, some states are taking such measures as legally enforcing facial protective gear – in one instance, authorities went so far as dragging a man off of a bus for not wearing a face mask. In our previous blog post, we discussed some of the changes those observing the Easter holiday would have to make in order to celebrate safely – and lawfully. Right on its heels comes “The Stoner’s Holiday” , known colloquially as 4/20. An unofficial holiday that has grown to so much more as the legality of marijuana has commercialised the industry, “Protestival” activists have kept this day holy since the early 1970’s, gathering on April 20th to air their defiance of the status-quo, one puff at a time. The 4:20pm ball or “bud” drop so many of us have sparked up to actually stems from a tradition dating back 50 years or so, by some rebellious students at a California high school in San Rafael. Being that humans are creatures of habit, some commemorations of these kids’ antics have gone on for at least a generation.

Canada’s 420 Vancouver Festival would have been celebrating a milestone 25-year run this month. Drawing 60,000 participants in 2019, authorities had wrongly assumed the decriminalization of the herb would bring in fewer attendees.

The annual Hippy Hill gathering in Golden Gate Park’s Robin Williams Meadow had already officially been canceled. Although California officials have always stressed the unsanctioned aspect of 4/20 holiday, the 15,000 people from different parts of the planet who have flocked to this beautiful spot on the Bay have experienced tolerance bordering on permissiveness as the years have gone by, with the city even bringing in sponsors to aid in the compensation of security personnelle, food cart owners and merchants – not to mention, port-o-potties.

This week, Mayor Breed of San Francisco made a stern announcement clarifying that the city had drastically changed its tune, the Mayor saying the April 20, 2020 fest is “off the table”

“We will not allow this unsanctioned event to occur this year, especially in the height of a pandemic. The area will be fenced off. There will be police officers patrolling the area. We will cite, and, if necessary, arrest. we will not tolerate anyone coming to San Francisco for 420 this year.”

Colorado, one of the first states in America to legalize recreational marijuana for consumption, is home to Denver, the Mile High City. These two facts alone are enough to enchant marijuana enthusiasts. When in-house bar and restaurant operations were discontinued this last March 17th, cannabis event organizers had just over a month to execute the wrenching process of calling off some of the world’s most famous 4/20 events. 

Denver’s highly anticipated Mile High 420 Festival, known as “the largest free 420 event in the world”, has a cancellation notice on its website’s front page, extending sentiments of thanks to the hard-working folks who helped plan the event while unapologetically expounding upon the prioritization of the health of those attending and entertaining at the venue. Organizers expected upwards of 50,000 people to attend this year, as well as the popular rapper Lil Jon to perform. This gathering is not expected to be rescheduled

Elevationists and curious attendees of The International Church of Cannabis will also be missing out this year, the religious sect not only tanking its special holiday message, but also its mind-expanding offering of a beyond-laser light show and guided meditation

There is a very important component to celebrating 4/20 of course: pot. As with any other commodity, its availability made consumers take it for granted, but from the moment stoners realized COVID-19 might be a threat to the accessibility of legal marijuana, they have been stocking up bigtime. The purchase of weed in such large quantities may be hard to keep fresh, unless it is to be used right away, like in, say, a one-ounce joint, perhaps?

Though many consumers are tapping delivery for their re up as a rule these days, stores still open to shoppers are already planning out precautionary measures against the heavy foot traffic they are expecting. In order to ensure that their customers are following new safety standards, dispensaries such as Portland, Oregon’s Cannabis Nation will be putting a firm foot down by having an employee roam the floor, reminding patrons to maintain a 6-ft berth between one another. Dispensaries will be having sales all weekend long and are encouraging buyers to get their hands on some green early, if you want to spend the day celebrating and not waiting in line, that is. Much to the apparent delight of some wild American black bears in Yosemite peacefully napping big cats in what is now a naturally serene South African National Park, visits to many major protected areas have also been banned for the foreseeable future, which really puts a damper on the plans of stoners residing in prohibition states

Coronavirus be damned, the indomitable cannabis community is treading new ground in order to pay homage to their stoney forefathers. Though a considerably small group of people practicing careful techniques could potentially pull off a transmission-free engagement, those taking the safer route of blazing (or getting blazed with edibles) solo this year are in luck if they have access to the internet, as the party is now raging online, the world wide web now a popular stand-in for the fun and comradery many would have been seeking at live meetups in the first place. 

The site nugs.tv will be streaming The Highstream 420 Festival, a grand virtual occasion which is to be co-hosted by The Emerald Cup And The National Cannabis Festival (which has, for now, been postponed to September 19th in Washington, DC). Platforms such as Potguide.com and Leafly.com, have also put together comprehensive lists of sites to find 420-themed entertainment, dance parties and 4:20 stoop meets, in order that “stoners can still light up together online”. Whatever commonality or niche their group represents. Most every group’s host beckons newcomers with welcoming invitations extending comfort and support, offering a chance for a reprieve from the raging storm of fear and sorrow most of us are weathering right now. 

Cannabis leaders are not only utilizing the internet’s landscape as a means to connect, but also as an opportunity to rally together for different cannabis-related causes and charities that may have popped up as a result of the pandemic. East Bay SF cannabis activist Debby Goldsberr organized The Great American Sesh-In virtual telethon, asking participants to “stay home to celebrate and donate” to their five-hour fundraising event which will feature cannabis legends B-Real from Cypress Hill and comedian/actor Tommy Chong. Proceeds from this telethon will be benefiting first responders to COVID-19 through donations to Direct Relief, a charity that provides the protective equipment essential to the safety of our healthcare workers.

In discussing the virtual telethon with a reporter from Forbes.com, Goldsberr remarked, 

“Cannabis consumers are generally social people, and they are also online in large numbers. This is our first big chance to really be together, having a shared experience, even though we are separate and at home. It’s going to be a great chance to pause our worries and anxieties, and instead, enjoy the spirit and resilience of this community.”

When this nightmare will be over is still unknown. Everyone in the entire country has been affected by this devastating illness. We cannot let anything, even a pandemic, keep us from joining together as one, whether to celebrate a holiday like Easter, or to band together to add a striking new chapter to the rich, storied history of 4:20. Necessity may see us pushing “pause” on facets of our lives we’ve never considered before, but keeping traditions alive is the only way to preserve our culture.