COVID-19 snuffs out annual 4/20 cannabis festivals, but the party goes on

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

To celebrate 4/20 last year, the staff at the 1st Quality Medz marijuana dispensary in River Rouge fired up the grill and fed customers gathered on the annual day for cannabis-culture celebrations.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that party and many others like it across the country were canceled for April 20 this year. The replacement: virtual events and informal outdoor smoking sessions.

Although there was no party and all marijuana sales had to be made curbside, Green Care manager Steven Dally saw an uptick in sales Monday, the traditional 4/20 day of cannabis culture celebration.

“People like to congregate or be amongst each other,” said Vetra Stephens, CEO of 1st Quality Medz, which offers medical and recreational marijuana. “I think we’re all missing out on those types of things. You make do with what you have.”

This would have been the first springtime celebration with legal recreational weed in Michigan; medical marijuana has been sold in the state since 2009.

The weekend was to bring festivals and music culminating on 4/20, the code for marijuana smoking. (Folklore has it that in the early 1970s, a group of Northern California high school friends met at 4:20 p.m. every afternoon to light up.) Celebrations were also dampened earlier this month when the Ann Arbor Monroe Street Fair & Hash Bash Festival scheduled for April 4 was postponed.

Two drive-thru lines formed Monday at Herbology Cannabis Co. in River Rouge.

Instead, those celebrations have had to go virtual because of stay-at-home orders to curb the pandemic.

For example, on Monday afternoon Utopia Gardens, a medical marijuana dispensary on East Lafayette in Detroit, streamed a live event featuring DJs via Restream to Facebook and YouTube. Chat participants were encouraged to text the business to be entered into a giveaway for free product.

Businesses reported increased marijuana sales.

Steven Dally, manager of Green Care, a medical marijuana dispensary in River Rouge, said by Monday afternoon he had served hundreds of customers curbside, about five times the normal daily business.

It's typical for marijuana businesses to offer special deals for 4/20, he said. "It's kind of like our Black Friday," he said. 

Dally said everyone he encountered seemed to be practicing social distancing. Green Care is only offering curbside pickup at this time.

"I've heard of people doing online Zoom meetings and parties, and stay separate and whatnot," he said. 

Despite not having a party this year, business was also up for 1st Quality Medz.

“Pretty nonstop, although we are doing curbside only," Stephens said. "People are driving around and are happy to do so.”

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN