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Are These Already the ‘Good Old Days’ of Legal Weed? ~ Commercialized 4/20 Pays Dividends

6:16 PM PDT on April 22, 2019

    [dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap]fter a full year of cannabis finally being recreationally legal, 4/20 – the annual high holiday for stoners that originated in the Bay Area in the late 70s – is more popular than ever in L.A. The city is redefining its 4/20 identity, as the legal market matures and the holiday evolves from a day for only the most dedicated stoners and canna-nerds into a mass marketing event and sales opportunity for the cannabis industry. Despite all that, the big business of weed has a wonky road ahead as Los Angeles officials continue to spend millions on enforcement.

    All photos by Lexis-Oliver Ray.
    The Kush Mart. All photos by Lexis-Oliver Ray.

    Black Friday for Stoners

    [dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]t appears 4/20 has become a lucrative holiday for not only cannabis retailers but also other brands looking to capitalize on the holiday. According to Postmates, hamburger orders increased by more more than 300 percent on 4/20 and orders for Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Tacos doubled. Carl’s Jr. revealed a nationally hyped CBD infused burger in Denver, while Nike and Adidas both dropped stoner-friendly shoes.

    And in Los Angeles, hundreds of people lined up outside of stores even before they opened to get a head start on 4/20 deals. Stores gave away weed practically for free, waved taxes on new drops, and solicited celebrity endorsements to capitalize on the holiday. Beyond city limits, in Adelanto, Kushstock hosted a free festival that featured vendors as well as live performances.

    Thousands of people made the 150-mile-trek from Los Angeles to the Mojave desert to experience the free festival but a lot of attendees were ultimately let down. Both during and after the event, people expressed frustrations over parking, long lines, and an overall lack of cannabis vendors.

    In a public response, organizers expressed their own frustrations with the state’s cannabis laws saying, “I don’t own the stadium, I don’t control the cops, fire, code enforcement. I can’t change the laws alone. But we can as a community." In an Instagram post that restricted comments, Kushstock reported that they hosted a modest 106 vendors in Adelanto on Saturday but some attendees claimed, in the comments of other posts, that the majority of those vendors were distributing merch rather than cannabis. Overall, it sounded like Kushstock fell short of expectations this year.

    The days when cannabis operated within a grey area are over and that means in today’s legal market, large public events like Kushstock are now held up to higher standards, ultimately restrained by the California Bureau of Cannabis and other regulatory agencies. Working within the confines of the legal market has proven to be challenging for some retailers and event organizers. Public consumption, for instance, is barred and consumption at events is heavily regulated, unlike the early days of cannabis events like High Times Cannabis Cup.

    RELATED: Weed Is Finally Legal to Pack When Flying Out of LAX, But There’s a Catch

    Legal Businesses Get Creative

    [dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]n Westlake, I spent time smoking joints inside a customized, tinted commuter bus parked right outside of dispensary LA KUSH, just blocks away from MacArthur Park. LA KUSH hired the private, licensed bus company after a month of planning to get around consumption laws. Customers that spent over $90 at the dispensary were able to enter the bus and blaze freely.

    I watched as senior citizens lined up with millennials and middle aged parents eager to start their 4/20. I even saw homeless people make their way into the store to capitalize on early morning deals. Not everybody is a fan of the legal market, but it was reassuring to see a licensed business that charges tax and operates by the book serve such a diverse neighborhood of people.

    At other events around the city, security turned a blind eye to partiers smoking weed.

    On the patio of the Resident in the Arts District on Saturday, 420 Queer – an organization that stands for underrepresented people in the cannabis industry – hosted “High Tea” a LGBTQ focused cannabis-inspired day party. The event brought queer nightlife folks and people from the cannabis industry into the same space through an array of live music, DJ sets, and a small group of CBD-influenced vendors. Throughout the day, people shared joints with one another without being hassled by security, and enjoyed cocktails in between CBD massages and food by the KTCHN.

    Later on in the day, I found myself surrounded by tye-die and concert memorabilia at the Echoplex in Echo Park for their annual Shred 420 event. The all-day mini rock festival continued into the night and featured food vendors, live art, and Grateful Dead-inspired cocktails. The venue had a strict policy when it came to alcohol limiting consumption to a narrow deck, competing for space with vendors. But they allowed patrons to toke freely amongst the outdoor areas as they listened to music heavily inspired by Jerry Garcia.

    Criminalization Continues

    [dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]n the future, we might actually look back at these early days of legalization fondly. Smoking weed at a bar could become a rarity if the city has anything to do with it. In this last year, the City of Los Angeles has been ramping up the criminalization of cannabis, going after the so-called “black market” hard, spending an estimated 30 million a year to enforce cannabis policy.

    The day before 4/20, city attorney Mike Feuer released a 3 minute video updating the public on a recent lawsuit that the city filed with an unlicensed retailer in South Los Angeles. A reminder that cannabis is still very much criminalized both around the country and also in our city.

    On the morning of 4/20, the LAPD released a series of tweets warning the public of the dangers of driving stoned and the possibility of getting a DUI. Later in the day, they used a fatal car wreck, that allegedly involved both alcohol and cannabis, to double down on their warnings about driving stoned.

    This year’s 4/20 event calendar felt like one of the biggest for stoners and the legal market in particular but for the vast majority of L.A. residents, 4/20 was just another day in Los Angeles – albeit an unexpectedly dreary one. People went to work, community organizations held rallies, the daily beat of the city went on.

    For most stoners in L.A., the celebration of cannabis is an everyday lifestyle anyway.

    RELATED: Our Secret Marijuana Memories ~ L.A. Taco Writers Recall Their Fondest Highs For 4/20

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