The Push to Change the Meaning of 4/20

April 20th 2017

Kyle Jaeger

If there's one day when stoner stereotypes get the most mainstream play, it's April 20.

However, a growing coalition of legalization advocates and cannabis businesses is pushing back against the notion that people who consume marijuana indulge in unhealthy habits. What 4/20 should really be about is celebrating how the plant promotes wellbeing, the argument goes.

That's the idea behind a holiday-themed, "G0420" cannabis campaign launched by hmbldt, a company that produces specialized vape pens.

"4/20 has always played an important role in cannabis culture, and increasingly in mass culture," Derek McCarty, the company's chief marketing officer, told ATTN:. But the holiday also represents an opportunity to "celebrate the plant overall" and "have a louder voice about people that are using cannabis a therapeutic tool."

A few recent surveys, including one released by Yahoo/Marist last week, demonstrate the widespread use of cannabis for therapeutic — rather than singularly recreational — purposes. Only 11 percent of regular marijuana users reported using the plant "just to have fun." By contrast, 68 percent said they used cannabis to relax, relieve pain, or improve sleep.


Jim McAlpine, founder of the country's first cannabis gym, told ATTN: "there will always be a place for stoner culture, and 4/20 will always have some form of stoner vibe to it." That said, "the collective consciousness of cannabis use and users is changing."

Part of that shift has involved emphasizing how marijuana can be integrated into a healthy lifestyle.

"When I first came into this industry and started the 420 Games about two and a half years ago, there was nothing like what we did — there was no real athletic slant on [cannabis culture] and the wellness slant wasn't even that big," McAlpine said. "Over the last two years, I've seen so many people come at it from different angles, whether it's the hardcore sports athletic stuff like I do, or it's yoga, or it's using cannabis within a healthy lifestyle."

In any case, the cannabis industry is increasingly sending a message: there's no shame in smoking a joint and relaxing at home on 4/20, but the holiday should represent the wide range of uses of cannabis and diverse consumers who benefit from the plant's therapeutic properties.