Annual holidays are not just about picnics and federal days of celebration. Tens of thousands of Americans also gather to celebrate a drug gaining momentum across many states for legalization even if it is illegal federally. Marijuana is cherished by many and so created a celebratory date to display their joy and love of this drug. Find out how this countercultural movement has shifted in recent years and why it is a well-loved holiday for so many.

What is 4/20?

April 20th is a date when major rallies occur across the country. Some states like Colorado and California have big celebrations as well as other states where legalization has occurred. Support for legalization is growing so festivities are going from underground to more mainstream. Commercialization of this holiday means leveraging it to sell products for businesses as a marketing tool. In the fall of 1971 at San Rafael High School near San Francisco, a group of students found out about an abandoned cannabis patch in the forest near Point Reyes Peninsula. A group of students went out looking for it, searching for weeks. They talked about “4/20” to signal to one another they were headed out to search, but never found it. The code phrase is not used to signal ‘time to smoke’ and refers to many other things cannabis-related.

Why is 4/20 a holiday?

The holiday simply existed from the start to celebrate marijuana. People visit states where it is legal to smoke it or celebrate at home. The industry is taking notice of the celebrations and festivals surrounding this date and seeking to push it from a countercultural movement to a more mainstream one. Even if it is just for fun, others might see some potential profit.

Industry Perspectives

Recent pushes for legalization have increased opportunities to capitalize on anything with the name ‘marijuana’ attached. Businesses are trying to use this opportunity to bring investment and funding to the industry. They see the holiday as authentic as St. Patrick’s Day or Valentine’s Day. Even if few people outside the industry and others don’t realize it, the holiday is pushing away stigma and growing in popularity. Big business can sometimes take advantage of something that was once fun to something ‘too mainstream.’ It may take away counter cultural meaning, but the goal is to celebrate it as much as possible and create a meaningful holiday, even if it looks different than when it started.

As the holiday shifts to become more commercialized, some people may choose to stay home and create smaller celebrations on their own. Although some enjoy the public push this holiday is creating, others prefer the casual, laid-back atmosphere of the olden days of celebrating 4/20. Legalization campaigns want to regulate marijuana and create positive spaces while others are happily celebrating in smaller spaces. Neither is wrong but it also cannot hurt the campaign for legalization at a federal level to see states where it is legal promoting events with cannabis on 4/20. This holiday is an example of a public shift in consciousness around cannabis and its evolution from a countercultural drug to another opportunity for people with medical and other needs (or wants) to explore its benefits and increased opportunities for business owners.


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