A virus is a different enemy, bringing change by the hour, not the day. On one day in March, Denver dispensaries went from thinking they had to go to curbside sales, under an order from Governor Jared Polis, to closing altogether, under an order from Mayor Michael Hancock. But Hancock reversed himself within hours, and a few days later, the state Marijuana Enforcement Division determined that customers could go back inside recreational dispensaries, as long as certain protocols were followed.
And just like that, cannabis officially became as essential a business in Colorado as gasoline and bread.
But traditions that have long been a hallmark of the community are quickly disappearing. With public gatherings banned, there will be no celebration in Civic Center Park on April 20, no concerts by Snoop Dogg and Method Man, no ditching work for a ten-person session in your mom's van. The "4/20 All Year" slogan was obsolete even before April 2020 began.
Or was it?
Cannabis users, a largely chill bunch, are used to having to enjoy themselves in the shadows. Most of us wind up sitting at home on the unofficial stoner holiday of 4/20 anyway, smoking slightly more than the already-hefty amount of weed we do on a regular basis (which sounds awfully close to how many of us are handling self-isolation, too). And the cannabis community isn't going to let us celebrate alone, organizing a long list of free online music performances, comedy sets, art classes and movie screenings for 4/20. (And we're not talking about a few stoner acts you've never heard of: Nathaniel Rateliff, Kacey Musgraves, Josh Blue, members of the Broken Lizard Crew and more are all set to perform and hang out online during these events, most of which are collecting donations for various charities.)
It's nearly impossible to know how this pandemic will affect legal cannabis as we know it, with predictions about the future of retail weed and social consumption cloudier than a hotboxed Subaru in the Red Rocks parking lot. But one thing is for certain: Cannabis and the people who grow it, sell it, cook with it and fight for it in Colorado will still be here when we go back outside.
So celebrate 4/20 at home, to make sure you can gather the crew next year. Don't share pipes or joints with others — social pot consumption is a notorious germ-spreading activity — and remember how much coughing comes with heavy pot use. Have a session over FaceTime or Zoom (even if you're being watched, you won't be busted). Get your food and drinks delivered instead of taking your high ass outside, because good luck remembering not to touch your face while stoned and disoriented in public.
Dispensaries aren't going to let the pandemic stop 4/20 promotions and weed sales, but their employees are still learning how to effectively transition toward social-distancing measures and a new focus toward to-go ordering. Keep this in mind as you rush to the pot stop for an affordable ounce of bud or 6 grams of clearance hash. Cheap weed isn't worth the ’rona.
These really aren't huge changes to the routine of most 4/20 participants. Chilling at home, surfing the web and having food delivered were all popular 4/20 activities before this, and will continue to be after. If we treat this like rolling a spliff and all pack in together, maybe we can get through it without the joint running ragged.