For many, 4/20 was just another date on the calendar. But for cannabis businesses and customers across the nation, Tuesday’s 50th anniversary of the unofficial marijuana holiday offered a fresh start following a tumultuous year that saw the pandemic upend retail businesses.
While the coronavirus pandemic put the kibosh on live 4/20 celebrations last year and altered activities for the high holiday on Tuesday, businesses still reported increased foot traffic and people emerging from isolation to find bargains on their favorite cannabis products, live music and celebrities peddling free merch and coupons.
“It’s consistently people through the doors nonstop,” Curaleaf Arizona President Steve Cottrell said Tuesday. “There are lines at all the stores. It ebbs and flows depending on the time.”
It was the first 4/20 Arizona has celebrated since adult-use cannabis opened for legal sales on Jan. 22.
And while many newer cannabis shoppers were not necessarily aware of the marijuana holiday, they still were able to benefit from the DJs and food trucks as well as the buy-one, get-one (BOGO) deals Curaleaf offered customers at its eight Phoenix-area stores.
“We have not been doing any BOGOs or heavy discounts since adult use launched because we haven’t had to,” Cottrell said.
“This is a real opportunity for us to get some new customers. They’re going to go away knowing Curaleaf had something they liked.”
Free merch and coupons
Denver-based Lightshade enlisted the help of NFL veteran running back Reuben Droughns, a vocal cannabis advocate, to visit its nine marijuana stores.
Droughns distributed free fanny packs stuffed with coupons for discounts on cannabis products and the chance for one of three “golden tickets” that can be redeemed for a greenhouse tour and shopping experience for four people.
“Yesterday was very nearly a record breaker for Lightshade, even though this year 4/20 was on a Tuesday and we had inclement weather and some other network challenges. We were very slightly down from our top 4/20, which was in 2018 and on a Friday,” said Lisa Gee, Lightshade’s vice president of marketing and corporate social responsibility.
Gee said the company stocked its stores with 30% more inventory than normal leading up to 4/20 so it would be prepared for the onslaught of customers.
It also purchased a lot of boutique flower that it held back in anticipation of the marijuana holiday, when the product sold for $20 an eighth, and set aside some of the new strains it produces.
“We started preparing several months ago,” Gee said. “We haven’t really known what to plan for, but people are just willing to celebrate today.”
Like Curaleaf, Lightshade treats 4/20 as a four- to five-day event and runs daily specials leading up to the holiday itself.
“One of the stores had reached its sales goal by 1 p.m., and they’re open until 10,” Gee said. “Some stores do a lot of their business later in the day.”
Early-morning sales kickoff
Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries kicked off its 4/20 celebration at 6 a.m. Tuesday with a steel drum performance at its Rise Mundelein store – the company’s first recreational store to open in Illinois.
The company has 56 retail stores across the country.
Green Thumb Chief Strategy Officer Jen Dooley said this year’s 4/20 has more significance to her than in years past because it also marks a year of cannabis being deemed an essential industry.
“The stores are full of life and celebration,” Dooley said Tuesday.
“We anticipate this and every 4/20 going forward will have higher sales than in the past. The momentum just continues to fuel consumer interest and regulatory interest. Hopefully next year we can have larger celebrations.”
When Illinois launched sales of adult-use cannabis last January, there were long lines and a shortage of flower that prompted many companies to impose limits on the amount customers could purchase.
The flower shortage has since been addressed, said Sammy Dorf, co-founder and chief growth officer of Chicago-based Verano Holdings. The company has 73 stores, including pending acquisitions.
The biggest sellers in Verano’s stores are flower and pre-rolls, but Dorf noted that he’s noticed sales of edibles, extracts and tinctures have increased since January.
“The Illinois market is very strong, and there’s an abundance of various products,” Dorf said Tuesday.
Pandemic concerns linger
While many cannabis consumers emerged from pandemic-induced isolation, some still were not comfortable visiting marijuana retailers in person and relied on delivery service instead.
Because of how busy it was last year, California-based delivery service Ganja Goddess encouraged customers to spread out their purchases by slowly rolling out bargains leading up to the actual holiday, said Zachary Pitts, the company’s founding partner and CEO.
The company offered buy-two, get-one for $1 deals on Pure Beauty flower and pre-rolls and Kiva edible products and buy one, get half off on Chemistry concentrate cartridges.
“Some of our employees dressed up as Ganja Goddesses for the day,” Pitt said. “They wore green dresses or green earrings or makeup. We’ve tried to make it as much of a celebration as we can.”