West Glenwood gets a bit greener — new cannabis shop to open in late October
The Green Solution has 17 cannabis shops in Colorado and plans to grow its business farther west with a new location in Glenwood Springs.
Located at 51701 Highway 6 & 24, in the space formerly occupied by Vic’s Route 6 Grillhouse, The Green Solution plans on opening its strictly recreational cannabis shop in West Glenwood Springs by late October.
“It looks really like an Apple store,” The Green Solution CEO Steve Lopez said. “Nice, clean, no one has to be afraid of staying in the parking lot and getting a hippie vibe or any of the stoner stereotypes.”
The 4,300-square-foot shop will offer flower, edibles, beverages, topicals and more. The vast majority of which The Green Solution cultivates out of its three indoor grow facilities in Denver as well as its 150-acre outdoor grow in Trinidad.
According to Lopez, the Colorado-based, family-owned business employs approximately 700 people across its company and strives for a concierge approach when serving its patrons.
“First we try to understand exactly what our client needs,” Lopez said. “We have some folks that come in for pain relief. We have some folks … say they are going to a concert.”
The Green Solution breeds its own strains, which tailor to unique experiences such as live music or video games. Some of those strains include the sativa dominant Red Rocks Diesel for live shows and Player 1, a sativa intended for gamers.
“We have had gamers come in all of the time and say, ‘Hey, we’d love to have a strain for us,’” Lopez said of the impetus for growing Player 1. “So, we developed one.”
Additionally, The Green Solution’s Rubicon strain was recognized as the best CBD flower in the 2016 High Times Colorado Cannabis Cup and in last year’s Rooster Magazine THC Classic.
“Then we have a very large line of edibles,” Lopez said. “Gummies, brownies, lollipops we really run the gamut on that.”
One of The Green Solution’s most popular beverages includes its 10mg THC infused root beer carbonated soda from NectarBee. The Green Solution also carries the dealcoholized, Belgian-style white ale cannabis beer Grainwave from Ceria Brewing Co., which was co founded by Blue Moon creator Keith Villa.
“We have a lot of folks that come in for our topicals and that’s like muscle balm, nerve salve,” Lopez said. “Folks that are using these lotions to relieve pain in their body.”
The Green Solution does not sell individual CBD products.
“However, we do have some products that are like a five-to-one CBD versus THC,” Lopez said. “The best effects that you have with CBD is actually when you also have THC in there. It’s so low, the THC, that you don’t feel it but it helps adhere to your body.”
Lopez said The Green Solution was looking forward to expanding its reach to the Western Slope and getting to know Glenwood Springs, specifically.
“Within any city that we come into we really get to know the regulations, the local government and really make sure that we are contributing to the community as well,” Lopez said.
In addition to the Glenwood Springs location, The Green Solution plans on opening a location in Aspen, too at 106 S Mill Street at a future date.
How high is too high? Colorado struggles to test marijuana impairment for drivers
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In 2014, when recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado, Matt Karzen, an assistant district attorney in Routt County at the time, noticed a lot of criminal cases coming to his office involving drivers arrested on suspicion of driving stoned.
It was the first time such cases had gone through local justice system under the laxer laws, and he was not sure how they would play out in court. So, his office brought a case in front of a jury as a sort of litmus test for convicting high drivers.
The case involved a man pulled over in Steamboat Springs for having a dirty windshield. It started as a routine traffic stop for driving with obstructed vision, but law enforcement officials noticed the man behaving strangely. Resulting tests showed he did not have alcohol in his system, but he was over the legal limit for marijuana.
When jurors reviewed body camera footage and reports from law enforcement, they weren’t convinced the tests proved beyond a reasonable doubt the man was impaired.
“The guy was acquitted in about five minutes,” Karzen said.
As marijuana becomes more widely used across the state, much uncertainty remains about how the drug impairs the body and at what point someone becomes too high to drive. A lack of clarity and research has made it difficult for law enforcement officials to test for marijuana impairment during traffic stops and for the courts to convict people accused of driving high.
According to current state law, people can be prosecuted for driving under the influence if their blood contains more than 5 nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the cannabinoid in marijuana that causes its coveted psychoactive effects.
But marijuana users, particularly those who partake regularly for medicinal purposes, worry they would test over the legal limit, even when they are not impaired.
Trends in marijuana use
A recent report from the New York Times investigated the legacy of the last five years of legal marijuana in the state and found, more than anything, the drug has become a more commonly accepted part of life for Coloradoans.
About twice as many residents smoke marijuana compared to the rest of Americans.
During a June session of the Steamboat Springs Police Department’s Citizens Academy, which teaches the public about the work of local law enforcement, officers said they have spoken with many people who think it is OK to drive stoned. This worried officer Lisa Wilson, who does not want a lower perceived risk to cause accidents.
As she explained, “If you feel different, you drive different.”
According to a 2018 study from the Colorado Department of Transportation, the number of highway deaths involving drivers with marijuana in their system has nearly doubled since legalization, with 75 deaths in 2014 and 139 in 2017.
But, the number of drivers involved in a fatal crash who tested over the legal limit for marijuana — that 5-nanogram threshold — has decreased sharply in recent years. In 2017, 35 drivers in such accidents were over the legal limit, down from 52 in 2016.
As the study advises, “The presence of a cannabinoid does not necessarily indicate recent use of marijuana or impairment.”
Cannabinoids have a stubborn way of sticking around in people’s fat cells, meaning someone could test positive for the drug, even over the legal limit, days or weeks after they smoked. This is especially true for frequent users.
“People can be heavily saturated with THC in their system and not be under the influence,” Karzen said.
Concerns among marijuana users
Larisa Bolivar admits to using marijuana almost every day. The executive director of the Cannabis Consumer Coalition, based in Denver, Bolivar has been an advocate for the drug long before it became legal.
The Washington Post, in a 2014 article, called her “one of the city’s most well-known proponents of decriminalizing marijuana nationally.” In 2004, she visited Steamboat to advocate for a cancer patient who was facing charges for using medical marijuana, which was legal at the time.
Fifteen years later, she is seeing a similar, enforcement-heavy approach to nabbing people suspected of driving high, despite a lack of certainty for testing impairment.
As Bolivar explained, many marijuana users, especially those consuming it daily and at higher doses for pain management or other medicinal purposes, will have large amounts of THC in their blood but not feel or act impaired.
“I haven’t consumed (marijuana) today, but I can guarantee you I have more than 5 nanograms in my system,” she said.
As someone who drives on a regular basis, Bolivar is always concerned she could be cited for a DUI even if she does not feel or act impaired.
“That is a very scary thought, and it’s totally unfair,” she said.
Sobriety tests for marijuana
Local law enforcement officials tend to agree with people like Bolivar, arguing the current science on marijuana impairment often does not reflect reality. Nor do they see it as a new issue.
“This challenge has been around as long as cannabis has been consumed,” Steamboat Springs Police Chief Cory Christensen said of measuring a person’s intoxication.
As he explained, field sobriety tests for alcohol have been researched and standardized over decades. Dating back to 1977, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has honed the tests to such an extent that recent studies report accuracy of 91% to 94%.
“We have a lot of experience with drunk drivers,” Christensen said. “We know what that person looks like, and you can smell it.”
Much less researched and certain are sobriety tests for marijuana. Law enforcement officials usually employ two methods to test for any kind of drug impairment. One way is to ask the driver to undergo a blood test to determine if they are over the 5-nanogram limit.
Some agencies also have drug recognition experts who have been trained to evaluate a driver for substance impairment. Several local troopers with Colorado State Patrol have the certification and are able to assist other law enforcement officials with roadside sobriety tests specific to drugs. Many of the criteria for impairment seem similar to alcohol, such as the one-leg-stand test.
Other considerations, such as redness in the eyes, could be the result of other, non-drug related conditions, like allergies or irritation.
“There is no go-to tool that is considered reliable across the board to determine if someone is impaired by marijuana,” Karzen said. “Right now, we’re just stuck with body camera footage and an officer’s assessment.”
Most such cases result in a plea deal, according to Karzen. Drivers usually plead guilty to driving while ability impaired, or DWAI, which is a traffic infraction — not a crime. It typically results in a fine and the revoked driving privileges for 90 days, a laxer sentence than for DUI offenses.
In many instances, people suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana also have an illegal amount of alcohol in their system, according to Karzen. If that is the case, prosecutors typically pursue a DUI conviction solely for alcohol because jurors feel better-versed at recognizing when someone is drunk.
Need for new tests and laws
What all of this points to is a need for more accurate measures of marijuana impairment, something state lawmakers are trying to accomplish through legislation.
One bill proposed during the 2019 Legislation Session would have thrown out the 5-nanogram threshold and given law enforcement full discretion in determining impairment through field sobriety as well as blood tests.
It faced strong backlash before lawmakers postponed it indefinitely in February.
Complicating the issue is the fact that marijuana is still federally illegal, so conducting accurate, legal research on how the drug affects the body has proven difficult.
With no changes for the foreseeable future, Karzen has been advising prosecutors in his office to be prudent in pursuing DUI convictions for marijuana, and to limit convictions to cases in which people showed obvious signs of impairment.
“I’m very uncomfortable proceeding with a criminal prosecution on impaired driving based only on the 5-nanogram limit,” he said.
For an example, he alluded to a scene in the cult classic, “Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke,” in which the two, red-eyed stoners get pulled over after smoking a joint the size of a salami.
Karzen chuckled at using such a reference, but those clear indications — poor driving, memory loss, marijuana smoke billowing from the windows — “those are what our prosecutors look for,” he said.
Christensen’s officers have a similar policy.
“If drivers don’t demonstrate any signs of impairment, we don’t take any action,” he said.
Regardless of the lack of clarity on marijuana impairment, people still have an obligation to drive sober.
“There is no excuse to drive impaired in any way,” Christensen said.
Dogs in the Roaring Fork Valley have found another way to get stoned other than the boring break-in of edibles at home: They are eating human feces tainted with marijuana.
Dr. Scott Dolginow, who owns Valley Emergency Pet Care in Basalt, said he is seeing anywhere from three to 10 dogs a week that come in with marijuana toxicity.
His working theory is that these dogs are eating human feces that have enough THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, to carry over for a second high. And they are finding these piles of pot-laced poop on trails and in campgrounds.
“Seventy to 80 percent of people say they have no idea where their dogs got it, but they say they were out on a trail or camping,” he said. “I can’t believe that the owners are lying.”
Just ask Rebecca Cole, the owner of Marty, a 2-year-old cattle dog mix that got into something on the No Problem Joe Trail and ruined a Sunday evening this past spring.
After spending part of the day on the trails east of Aspen, Cole noticed Marty acting strangely — staggering, throwing up, peeing on the floor and just generally out of it.
“He was crashed out; I had to carry him to the vet,” she said. “I literally walked in the door, and they said he was high … I couldn’t believe it, because I don’t have anything in my house.”
Cole said she saw Marty with a chunk of something in his mouth on the trail but didn’t think anything of it.
“Most dogs will eat human feces given the opportunity,” Dolginow said.
Dolginow, who also owns a vet clinic in Moab near a lot of camping areas, said there are too many instances of dogs coming in with THC toxicity symptoms after being outside to not think human feces is the source.
“It’s unlikely that many people toss an edible or a roach on the side of the trail,” he said. “It also makes sense from the level of toxicity we see.”
The phenomenon is occurring in places like San Francisco where there is a high population of homeless people who defecate in parks.
Oftentimes there’s not much vets can do and owners have to just let their dogs ride it out until they come down.
More severe cases dogs are either sedated or are treated with IV fluids, Dolginow said.
He added that when he is hiking Hunter Creek he notices human feces just off the trail on a regular basis.
Pryce Hadley, ranger supervisor for Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, said he has not seen evidence of human waste on open space.
“Obviously we encourage people to follow the ‘leave no trace’ principles in the backcountry and use established facilities in the front country,” he said.
Cole would appreciate that, too.
“It was scary,” she said. “I want people to pick up their poop.”
Time to slow down on marijuana, alerts surgeon general at Aspen Ideas Festival
One of the nation’s leading economists and its top doctor spent a better part of their Sunday morning conversation discussing the economic benefits of having a physically healthy community, before turning their attention to marijuana.
“I’m very, very concerned as surgeon general about how far and how fast we’re going on marijuana in this country,” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams told those gathered in the McNulty Room of the Doerr-Hosier Center for the final day of the health component of the Aspen Ideas Festival.
Adams and Patrick Harker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, agreed that the marijuana business is growing too rapidly in America, where 33 states have legalized medical marijuana, while 10 of them also allow adults to use the drug on a recreational basis.
Recreational marijuana use became legal in Colorado in January 2014. Aspen’s pot-shop count has hovered at anywhere from six to eight over the past few years.
“In our world it’s a serious issue, because states have legalized it,” Harker said. “But under federal law, banks cannot bank with those businesses and any ancillary businesses. So it’s not just the marijuana dispensaries or the places growing marijuana. It’s the warehouse owner. You cannot bank with that owner if their income, or a substantial portion, is coming from marijuana growth.
“So where’s that money going? It’s not going into federally chartered banks, and so it is raising issues about the financial stability. It’s a fast-growing business.”
Modern-day marijuana is significantly more potent than it once was, Adams said, noting just a decade ago pot on average had a 5% level of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
“You now have professionally grown strains that are 20, 30% THC,” Adams said, “and then they’re concentrating them into oil, into waxes. When they’re vaping, and their dabbing and their shattering — you’re getting 90, 95% TCH. That’s like the difference between you having a glass of wine and a pint of grain alcohol.”
The surgeon general also said there is “no such thing as medical marijuana,” though he conceded that some of cannabis’s ingredients have “medicinal properties and medical promise.”
He called for more research into marijuana, which as an recreational industry has generated $1 billion in sales tax collections since 2014 in Colorado.
Gov. Jared Polis, recently described by the Colorado Sun as the “nation’s most pot-friendly politician,” reacted to that figure, which was released earlier this month, with the statement: “This industry is helping grow our economy by creating jobs and generating valuable revenue that is going towards preventing youth consumption, protecting public health and safety and investing in public school construction.”
The topic of marijuana, Adams noted, has the multiple layers that include its impact on the economy and business, social justice and the legal system, the medical world and other facets.
“I think we have to have the courage to have a more nuanced conversation, particularly with so many folks out there coming out in favor of legalization with an election coming up,” he said. “And from a social justice point of view, I’m terribly concerned about injustice, the fact that black men are more than four times likely to be arrested as white men for marijuana usage. But you already have a liquor store and a smoke shop on every corner in every black community. I don’t know that adding a marijuana dispensary to that mix is going to fix all our social justice ills.”
Marijuana sales tax collection since recreational sales began in 2014 in May surpassed $1 billion, Colorado officials said Wednesday.
That’s a major milestone for a burgeoning industry, which has sold more than $6.5 billion in that time period.
Colorado now has almost 3,000 licensed marijuana businesses and more than 40,000 people who are licensed to work in the industry.
“This industry is helping grow our economy by creating jobs and generating valuable revenue that is going towards preventing youth consumption, protecting public health and safety and investing in public school construction,” Gov. Jared Polis, the nation’s most pot-friendly politician, said in a written statement.
The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at coloradosun.com.
Know before you grow
Colorado voters highly approved of legalizing marijuana for people 21 years of age or older, and since then pot shops have flourished in communities throughout the state.
Colorado residents may also grow up to six plants themselves with as many as three plants flowering at one time, so long as they remain in an enclosed, locked space. However, no more than 12 plants can be grown per residence regardless of the number of occupants.
When local budtender Jesse Rayne got into the marijuana industry it was to combine his love of cannabis with his love of chemistry. According to Rayne, one feminized cannabis seed has the ability to produce up to one pound of actual bud.
Do not plant male seeds, as they will produce pollen, not bud.
“If you acquire your seeds from a dispensary, which some dispensaries do offer, they are typically about 10 dollars per seed, usually sold in packs of six to 10,” Rayne said.
Although not required, the entire growing process typically begins with a step called germination.
“Germinating a seed is basically popping it in a paper towel that is a little bit damp, which tells the seed that it is no longer time for it to hibernate,” Rayne said.
Rayne explained how a cannabis seed could remain dormant without moisture for an indefinite amount of time.
During the germinating phase, Rayne recommended checking on your seed in the moist paper towel daily for three days.
“There will be a small split on the very tip of the seed where the point is, and it will actually have a very tiny white tendril of a sprout coming out of it, and that is called a taproot,” Rayne said.
From here growers should place their seed in a clean, neutral pH soil to allow the taproot to find nutrients and subsequently develop a pod flower that resembles a bean sprout.
“It’s just two fat, little leaves, and as soon as those two fat, little leaves get old enough the real cannabis plant will start growing out of the middle of them, and those two leaves will fall off and die,” Rayne said of the seedling stage, which typically lasts seven to 12 days. “At the end of 12 days you will see a tiny set of new leaves starting to form in the very center, and as those get taller over the next three weeks … in a home grow that is where they will get designated as vegetative.”
According to Rayne the vegetative state should last, at a minimum, for four weeks. During the vegetative state plants need 18-24 hours of light a day.
After those four weeks of almost around-the-clock light, growers typically expose their plants to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness daily, which subsequently activates the flowering cycle of the plant.
“This then produces the fruit part of the cannabis, which is the buds that we smoke,” Rayne said. “After about six or seven weeks and your buds are looking the right size … that is when you cut the plant down right at its base. Right at the soil, chop it.”
At this point, growers separate the nuggets away from the stalk and suspend them either upside down, or lay them on a rack in a dry, arid room.
Known as the curing phase, growers should allow their bud to cure for a minimum of one month. Some growers allow up to a year for their bud to cure.
Following the curing stage, smoke up.
Denver becomes the first US city to decriminalize ‘magic mushrooms’
DENVER (AP) — Voters narrowly made Denver the first U.S. city to decriminalize psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in “magic mushrooms.”
Decriminalization led by a slim 51%, according to preliminary figures on Tuesday’s election released by Denver’s Election Division. As many as 1,300 votes still remain to be counted, but that figure was not enough to swing the vote the other way, division spokesman Alton Dillard said.
Final election results will be released on May 16, he said.
“I think today’s outcome really demonstrates that the conversation is going to continue, and the world is ready for it,” said Cindy Sovine, chief political strategist for the campaign to decriminalize the drug.
“Psychedelics are already here. Now we can start to have the conversation about using them mindfully,” she added.
Organizers turned to the same strategy that marijuana activists used to decriminalize pot possession in the city in 2005. That move was followed by statewide legalization in 2012. A number of other states have since broadly allowed marijuana sales and use by adults.
Organizers say their only goal in the mushroom measure is to keep people out of jail in Denver for using or possessing the drug to cope with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and other conditions.
“We’re not talking about legalization, we’re talking about not putting people in jail,” Sovine said.
The initiative effectively decriminalizes use or possession of psilocybin by people 21 and older, making it the lowest enforcement priority for police and prosecutors. It does not legalize psilocybin or permit its sale by cannabis businesses.
Kevin Matthews, director of the Decriminalize Denver campaign, said psilocybin has helped him deal with depression for years.
“This is not something you have to take every day,” the 33-year-old Denver native said. “It provides a lot of lasting benefits, weeks and months after one experience.”
Psilocybin has been federally outlawed since the 1960s, when it was widely known as a recreational drug. The ban stymied medical research, but small studies in recent years have found the substance had positive effects on anxiety and depression for cancer patients.
Users have described seeing vivid colors and geometric patterns and experiencing powerful spiritual connections and emotions.
Magic mushrooms have been used in religious practices for decades because of their powerful effect on perceptions and spiritual experiences. Those same effects have appealed to recreational users dating to the 1960s counterculture movement.
A California effort to decriminalize psilocybin failed to qualify for the statewide ballot in 2018. Organizers in Oregon are trying to gather enough support to put an initiative to a statewide vote next year.
It took the pro-psilocybin organizers in Denver three tries to develop language approved by city officials for the ballot. They collected more than 8,000 signatures to qualify for Tuesday’s election.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and District Attorney Beth McCann opposed the initiative, but there was no organized campaign against decriminalization. The city’s election largely focused on a six-way race for mayor and a heated effort to end Denver’s “urban camping” ban that affects people without housing.
Voters roundly rejected an end to the camping ban. In the mayor’s race, incumbent Michael Hancock will face a June 4 runoff election against challenger Jamie Giellis.
The mushroom ordinance also prevents city funds from being used to pursue criminal penalties on possession or use and creates a panel to study the effects of the change.
Associated Press writer Thomas Peipert contributed to this report.
Marijuana tax money targeted for Colorado’s full-day kindergarten rollout
Colorado lawmakers have hit on a funding source to help struggling school districts cover up to $25 million in startup costs as they expand full-day kindergarten this fall: marijuana taxes.
The money is expected to aid districts in rural areas, as well as others short on cash. It would help buy new desks and furniture, fixtures for bathrooms and classrooms, and other equipment schools need as they expand their full-day kindergarten offerings.
To assist with those one-time expenses, lawmakers hit on tapping the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) fund, which already draws from marijuana tax money to issue local grants for school construction projects. The proposal is part of a bipartisan bill that also would deliver a $125 million boost in direct school construction assistance across the state in the next two years.
The state recently has put $40 million a year from retail marijuana excise taxes into the BEST fund, fulfilling a requirement of Colorado’s 2012 vote to legalize the sale and possession of recreational marijuana. The fund also includes revenue from other sources, including the lottery and state land leases and royalties.
CDOT seeks public input on new marijuana-impaired driving campaign
The Colorado Department of Transportation has launched an online survey in hopes of gathering public input on creative concepts and messaging for a new marijuana-impaired driving campaign.
The survey, part of CDOT’s ongoing “Cannabis Conversation” initiative, will help to create a new awareness campaign that better resonates with cannabis users in Colorado.
“We want as many people as possible to weigh in on these concepts,” said Sam Cole, safety communications manager with CDOT. “Our goal is to capture feedback that spans a wide range of views, lifestyles and demographics to get a well-rounded perspective of how these messages are connecting with different audiences.”
US corporations embracing 420 as pot legalization grows
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Potheads have for decades celebrated their love of marijuana on April 20, but the once counter-culture celebration that was all about getting stoned now is so mainstream Corporate America is starting to embrace it.
On Saturday, Lyft is offering a $4.20 credit on a single ride in Colorado and in select cities in the U.S. and Canada. Carl’s Jr. is using a Denver restaurant to market a hamburger infused with CBD, a non-intoxicating molecule found in cannabis that many believe is beneficial to their health.
On 420 last year, Totino’s, a maker of frozen pizza snacks, tweeted an image of a microwave and an oven with the message: “To be blunt, pizza rolls are better when baked.”
“I think brands that associate themselves with cannabis kind of get that contact high. In other words, they’re just considered to be cooler by association,” said Kit Yarrow, consumer psychologist at Golden Gate University. “As pot becomes more legal, more discussed, more interesting to people, more widely used, then 420 becomes more mainstream as well.”
Marijuana normalization has snowballed since 2012, when Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize recreational use. Eight more followed, including California, Oregon and Michigan. Medical marijuana is legal in two-thirds of the states, with conservative-leaning Utah and Oklahoma among recent additions.
Meantime, the CBD market has exploded. CBD oil can be found in candies, coffee and other food, drinks and dietary supplements, along with perfume, lotions, creams and soap. Proponents say CBD helps with pain, anxiety and inflammation, though limited scientific research supports those claims.
U.S. retail sales of cannabis products jumped to $10.5 billion last year, a threefold increase from 2017, according to data from Arcview Group, a cannabis investment and market research firm. The figures do not include retail sales of hemp-derived CBD products.
Ben & Jerry’s was one of the earliest big brands to foster a connection with the marijuana culture through marketing. The Vermont-based ice cream company features Cherry Garcia and Phish Food, honoring late Grateful Dead member Jerry Garcia and the band Phish. Both bands are favorites of the marijuana-smoking crowd.
To mark 420 in recent years, Ben & Jerry’s debuted taco and burrito inspired ice cream sandwiches. This year the company partnered with a San Francisco Bay Area cannabis retailer to give customers who place delivery orders on Friday and Saturday a free pint of Half Baked, a combination of cookie dough and fudge brownie.
“We have a lot of fun, never being overt, but really playing into the moment of 420,” said Jay Curley, the company’s global head of integrated marketing.
Last year, Ben & Jerry’s also turned more serious, asking consumers to call on lawmakers to expunge prior marijuana convictions and press for pardons or amnesty for anyone arrested for smoking pot. This year the company is using the holiday to call for criminal justice reform.
“We’re actually using this as an opportunity not to tell a stoner joke like we have in the past, but to raise what we see as a much more serious issue around justice,” Curley said.
Those in the marijuana marketplace also are ramping up advertising around 420. Much of the marketing about cannabis or related products takes the form of online ads, emails, text messages and social media. Shops typically offer discounts. Some host parties with food and entertainment. The larger 420 events can draw thousands of people.
Verano Holdings, whose businesses include cannabis shops, sponsors street festivals in Chicago and Tulsa, Oklahoma, where attendees can learn about marijuana products, listen to music and grab a bite. The company expects this Saturday’s festival in Chicago, going on its third year, will draw more than 4,000 people. Last year, it drew 1,500, said Tim Tennant, Verano’s chief marketing officer.
In San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, Hippie Hill will again be the site of a 420 celebration. Last year, more than 15,000 attended the event, which has transformed from a small informal gathering into a full-blown festival of corporate sponsors and commercial booths selling smoking devices, T-shirts and food.
Roger Volodarsky, whose Los Angeles-based Puffco makes portable vaporizers, has celebrated 420 since he was a teenager. Back then, he said, “420 was the day that you splurged on yourself and got high in interesting ways. It was the day that you made a gravity bong and coughed your brains out.”
Volodarksy likes that some Main Street brands are getting into the industry and the holiday.
“What’s important to me about these ad campaigns is they’re speaking to people who aren’t users and they’re normalizing the space to people who aren’t users,” he said.
Even as popularity grows, some companies will stay away from 420 as a marketing tool, said Allen Adamson, co-founder of Metaforce, a marketing consulting company.
“If you’re talking about a big brand that needs to appeal to everybody and is very risk-averse, then probably not,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll see large financial institutions doing it.”