Corporate haul-iday: What’s 4/20 even about anymore?

Published on April 19, 2024 by David Wylie

Groups of people gather on 4/20 outside of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa. Photo: Adobe stock/the oz.
People rally to legalize cannabis in 2014 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

On 4/20, many Canadian stoners will likely hit up a chain cannabis shop to grab door-crasher deals and maybe pick up some swag emblazoned with corporate pot logos.

In our legalized and consumer-focused country, April 20th has morphed into Black Friday for potheads.

Ironically, today’s iteration of 4/20 as a way of scoring cheap weed, is a lot closer to its original roots—which trace back to the fall of 1971 when a group of California teenagers hatched a plan to raid an abandoned cannabis crop.

Decades later in the 1990s, High Times popularized the term 4/20. Through a reform organization called Cannabis Action Network, which was affiliated with the magazine, the date April 20 began to include political and cultural protest, with rallies and smoke-ins quickly spreading to major cities across North America.

It evolved from there into a countercultural holiday used by cannabis advocates as a platform to preach an end to prohibition.

Now, after five years of legalization, 4/20 is a ho hum holiday as weed fatigue—perhaps more aptly, burnout—has set in among many who once had a passion for the plant.

Empty promises made by nincompoop cannabis CEOs; ‘chill’ stoners ripping each other’s throats out in online forums; profit over people as historic cannabis inequities are repeated in the corporate cannabis world.

It’s all become so… pedestrian.

So when 4/20 rolls around these days, if you’re not trying to squeeze a few scant bucks out of people’s pockets, what’s it even about?

One could argue there’s still room for protest… but it might not look like the kind of hippy bong circle you’d expect. Rather, protest comes in the form of a 4/20-timed opinion piece carefully crafted by corporate communication people and posted on the pay-walled Globe and Mail website in which well-heeled Organigram CEO Beena Goldenberg takes the byline on an op-ed arguing the excise tax is eating into industry profits.

“Corporate cannabis needs more cash to fund their executive team’s exorbitant bonuses” doesn’t look as nice on protest placards as “Legalize it!”

Truth is, 4/20 is evolving with the times. It’s no longer about the underdog, the oppressed, the unfairly jailed. It’s no longer about a crowd lighting up at the same time in front of government buildings counting on the idea that police wouldn’t arrest an entire contingent of people for huffing on a plant.

Congratulations! We won! It’s legal now in Canada, and it’s time to come to grips with the fact that 4/20 is just another day to make bank. Like it or not, corporatization has become cannabis’ culture.

If you don’t like that, protest it on 4/20.