Not so long ago, 4/20—“Weed Day,” the Fourth of July for pot—was a day simply when non-smokers knew that parks might be a bit smellier and McDonalds’ lines a little longer.
One generally accepted origin story of how the day came to be concerns five California high school students who in 1971 would light up by a statue of Louis Pasteur every afternoon around 4:20.
But in 2019, as states increasingly embrace legalization and Coca-Cola execs flirt with the idea of releasing CBD-spiked drinks, April 20 is becoming less of a fringe event and more of a Black Friday shopping extravaganza.
This year, 4/20 coincidentally (or as some might think, cosmically) falls on a Saturday. It’s also shaping up to deliver the highest-grossing 4/20 on record. Bloomberg reported that legal sales of pot are expected to double year over year.
In 2016, Claudia Mata was the accessory and jewelries director for W. The glossy’s weed radar was almost non-existent.
“We would do a little bit for 4/20,” she recalled to The Daily Beast. “Maybe a roundup of products, fun things we considered 'counterculture’—a shirt with a cannabis print, or something like that. There wasn’t much.”
But today, as the cannabis wellness space swells to a nearly $600 million market, more brands want a piece of the edible. “Now, 4/20 is a day of more overt celebrations,” Mata said.
Mata and her husband Zander run Vertly, a line of hemp CBD-infused lotions, balms, and bath salts. (“Garden-to-bottle skincare,” as Mata puts it.)
Just in time for 4/20, Vertly will launch a Workout Recovery Body Spray—think a mist-able Icy Hot Patch—which will be discounted for Saturday's festivities.
Those who prefer their hemp in liquid form (and with 12-percent alcohol volume) can turn to Four Loko's new malt beverage. Per Forbes, the drink will conveniently be sold in drugstores, with one minor snag.
“Four Loko Hemp,” with its green camo packaging, contains no actual, well, hemp. Instead, the brand concocted a copycat flavor, ideal for those who love that earthy, dirt-like taste but hate truth in advertising.
Milk Makeup, an Instagram-famous, hipper-than-thou beauty line already carries a line of “Kush” cosmetics. Made with hemp seed oil, Milk's line contains no psychoactive ingredients. The set of lip balms, mascara, and brow gels are just as effective at getting people high as a Ziploc full of oregano.
That did not stop Milk Makeup from introducing its latest releases via an Instagram photo of empty dime bags stamped with “4/20” in big red letters. Its caption read, “Something dank is about to drop. . .”
The glamour shot of an image so closely associated to street crime (and, confusingly, cocaine rather than cannabis), may not read as dank as Milk’s social media team hoped.
As one angry commenter wrote, “Carrying baggies like that could get someone arrested in Georgia [for] paraphernalia or distribution.”
“I hope a company that profits off marketing the whole street weed scene is putting money back into POC getting screwed by the justice system for small weed offenses,” another weighed in.
Estée Laundry, a beauty industry watchdog Instagram account, wrote that Milk Makeup was “using drugs to glamorize products.”
“We're not dismissing the fact that cannabis- or CBD-infused products can actually help people, but it's problematic because they are perpetuating the stigma around cannabis that's rooted in racial and social injustice,” Laundry told The Daily Beast. “To these brands, it's a hot trend, but what about all of the people that have been incarcerated for years because of small crimes relating to the very same plant?”
Milk Makeup did not make anyone available for interview by the Daily Beast.
The problem with 4/20 is that the holiday gets a lot less fun when considering that, despite equal rates of marijuana use among races, black Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for possession.
While it is true that most arrests do not lead to incarceration, a blotted record certainly does not help a person apply for a job, government assistance, or find somewhere to live.
Beryl Solomon, a self-professed “privileged white woman from Brooklyn Heights,” will celebrate 4/20 in earnest for the first time this year. “Maybe, maybe my sophomore year of college there was some smoke circle I walked in to and walked out of,” the 39 year-old mother said.
This year is different. Last October, Solomon founded Poplar, a “curated assortment” of CBD and cannabis products, designed to be user-friendly and appealing to both newbies and pros alike.
As someone who grew up following the Hebrew calendar, Solomon was pleased to discover that this year, 4/20 falls on the same weekend as Passover, Easter, and Earth Day.
“I think the fact that all of those holidays overlap is something to celebrate,” Solomon said. “It gives us another opportunity to say that we’re all more similar that different. We’re trying to make this moment bigger than the idea of that college smoke circle.”
Solomon told The Daily Beast that she was approached by at least six organizations who wanted to work with her on 4/20 events, but she felt that their messaging was too “stoner culture.”
Instead, she joined the cannabis culture magazine Gossamer in its pledge to donate money to the Women’s Prison Association.
Caliva, another lifestyle brand, and the ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s will also donate 4.20 percent of profits to Clear My Record, a criminal justice reform organization aimed at cleaning up old pot convictions.
On Sunday, April 21, the organization 421 For All will hold a day of observance in New York dedicated to “cannabis justice observance.” The fundraising event will raise money for prison reform charities and reentry programs.
In Solomon’s words, “We want to redefine the 4/20 idea that this is a night of chips on the couch. It’s an idea to say how can I consume in a way where I can respect my body, respect the earth, respect the planet?”
Or a day of respecting bodies, planets, and the occasional Dorito. You know, for history's sake.