It’s 4/20, and you know what that means! [Wink! Wink!]

Yep, lots of people are going to be getting high and buying more pot, with plans for getting high either today, or soon, to celebrate a holiday that not so very long ago was a underground counterculture protest, rather than a retail opportunity.

Funny how the wheel turns, isn’t it?

But this year’s 4/20 is most certainly going to be more subdued, since it’s hard to party (or chill out) when you’re afraid the person next to you might give you a deadly virus.

Today’s modified celebrations are just one more sign of how much the world is changing for cannabis retail – and everything else. Up until now, much of the business sector focus has been on how soon things will get back to normal. 

There’s been a lot of teeth gnashing over when we should “turn the economy back on”, but it’s becoming clearer that returning to the old life is a function of both how widely spread Corona virus remains, as well as how much confidence consumers have that they can go out in the world and not get sick.

A poll conducted last week showed that 81% of Americans want social distancing to continue, and public health experts are now beginning to suggest that we may be in a form of lockdown until September. After that, we may need to endure a series of halting opens and closes, as we struggle to manage outbreaks.

Under those circumstances, just about every live event promotion may have to be nixed until maybe mid-2021. People will still want to buy stuff, but the ways we encourage people to do it will need to change. 

Although nobody in their right mind would ever call me fashionable, I tend to keep an eye on the fashion industry for marketing tips. More than any other, the fashion industry is dependent on marketing for its success, and also houses one of the best economic indicators available.

If you haven’t noticed, the Pandemic has obliterated fashion. Not only are retail stores closed, but many online clothing fulfillment centers have been tagged non-essential, making it hard for both big and small brands to stay in business. The result has been a new kind of soul-searching in fashion, as many brands and leaders have begun to wonder how they will be relevant and if a large enough swaith of people will want to turn in their WFH sweatpants.

So, what to do? Digital marketing, of course. But trying every way you can imagine to get in front of people. Guerilla marketing, like creating an augmented reality filter for Instagram, partnering with essential businesses like bakeries and grocery stores to promote non-food products, livestreaming an influencer interacting with products, and getting (somewhat) political by heavily engaging on a particular cause with their social media.

Of course, none of these are clearly winning solutions, but change is here, and more change is to come. Today’s quiet 4/20 celebration is likely just a harbinger of what’s to come for the next year or more.


Editor Mike is a co-founder and the editor of Grown In, a U.S. national cannabis industry newsletter and training company. His career has taken him from Capitol Hill to Chicago City Hall, from...