This year, the marijuana holiday 4/20 is being disrupted across the board due to the coronavirus pandemic and resulting social distancing measures.
But while public gatherings and scheduled events are being cancelled—with some organizers offering virtual alternatives—some major businesses are continuing to leverage the occasion to promote cannabis causes and products.
The ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s stands out. As in past years, the brand is using 4/20 to highlight the harms of federal marijuana prohibition, particularly for communities of color. In concert with the ACLU, Ben & Jerry’s announced on Saturday that it is formally endorsing congressional legislation to deschedule cannabis and push restorative justice.
The company said in a blog post that the era of legalization means that people in an increasing number of states do not have to fear being prosecuted over cannabis-related activities—as long as “you’re a white person,” at least.
“Legalization must have equity at its heart. That’s why we’re calling on Congress to support the [Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement] Act, which would make cannabis legal and (it’s an important “and”!) expunge prior cannabis convictions,” the post states. “Want to feel really really good this 4/20? Then let’s make sure that legalization benefits all of us. That’ll turn 4/20 into a day that we all can celebrate.”
Ben & Jerry’s stressed that while legalization has enabled certain individuals to profit off a burgeoning industry, people continue to be criminalized across the country over marijuana—and even in legal states, racial disparities have persisted. To that end, they will be supporting efforts to federally reform cannabis laws, in part by launching content initiatives and encouraging people to take action individually.
“We have to do more than trade on quirky hippie stoner culture,” Christopher Miller, the head of global activism strategy at Ben & Jerry’s, told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview. “I think particularly now as there’s a lot more money being made as the industry becomes legalized and real, it’s incumbent upon all of us—individuals and companies who are trading on this—to step up and ensure that the damage that’s been done over the years around the drug is somewhat ameliorated as we move to this phase around marijuana.”
The company made a similar point as part of a 4/20 campaign last year, and it emphasized that all of this is part of a multi-year project to support criminal justice reform.
Asked why other private companies decline to take positions on policy issues like legalization, Miller said it’s “because it’s just not something most companies do.”
“Most companies, to the degree that they are involved in policy—and the truth is, most are—they are focused on policies that are in their own narrow self-interest.”
While it’s rare for businesses outside the marijuana industry to take a public stance on legalization legislation, an increasing number of mainstream companies are leveraging the 4/20 holiday to promote their products. Take BarkBox, for example.
The company got a rave response from the marijuana community after launching a set of doggie joint, bong and cannabis leaf chew toys. In fact, while they planned to keep the campaign going through the 4/20 holiday, they’re already sold out.
BarkBox, which is known for cheekily pushing the boundaries of pet products, said they will meet the high demand and have ordered more. In a blog post on Thursday, the company said it was taken aback by the positive reception.
“It’s no secret that we at BARK are not afraid to make some weird dog toys… And TRULY we don’t always make these toys on purpose,” BarkBox editor Stacie Grissom wrote. “But yesterday’s toys? YEAH we did these on purpose… But we didn’t know if you all would think they are as hilarious as we find them.”
“We started our promotion of a free oregano tug / spinach burrito / science beaker for your dog on 4/15, intending the promotion to hold out until April 20th,” she continued. “You know, April 20th– a normal day in which your dog should get to play with normal toys, made by normal people. Have a good, normal day.”
Two national restaurant chains—Del Taco and Blaze Pizza—are offering promotions to mark the cannabis occasion. Del Taco is selling 10 tacos for $4.20 and Blaze will be upgrading orders to the thicker “High-Rise” dough, according to a press release.
The coconut water company Vita Coco joked that “today supposed to be about being chill” and asked followers to reply with stories about their experiences working from home during a time of social distancing due to the pandemic. People who reply with the hashtag “#letsbeblunt” will get “a free case of Vita Coco Infused with Hemp to help you… escape.”
White Castle is urging people to host virtual watch parties with the cannabis cult classic “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,” and the company said it will try to participate in as many as possible if they’re sent an invite.
The bakery company Insomnia Cookies is offering a pack of six cookies for $4.20.
Panda Express is selling four lunch bowls for $20.
All single burgers and sandwiches are $4.20 at Smashburger on Monday.
Over at Netflix, the streaming service released a cannabis-themed cooking show to mark the holiday. “Cooked with Cannabis” features chefs competing to “get the hosts and special guests high on elevated cannabis cuisine with their artful use of leafy herb, THC infusions and CBD sauces,” Netflix said.
The music streaming company Tidal created a 4/20 playlist, featuring classics like Afroman’s “Because I Got High.”
After spending four years reviewing about 50 different cannabis vaporizers, The New York Times’s Wirecutter blog released its top picks in a post on Monday.
But while entertainment and discounts will inevitably abound on 4/20 now that marijuana is mainstream, it seems as though Ben & Jerry’s is again the outlier in treating the holiday as an opportunity for activism, rather than just consumerism.
“What we know is that consumers, citizens are looking for companies to take a stand on issues and to be agents of change at a time when there’s not a lot of trust in government,” Miller said. “People are looking for companies to step up in this way.”