A lot has changed in the cannabis world since the 4/20 in 2018. Multiple states legalized adult use or medical cannabis, and it looks as if more states are preparing to do the same. There will be small and large celebrations across the country in 2019, particularly among states that have lately witnessed milestones in access to medical and adult-use cannabis.
“I don't think I've ever seen this much momentum, but now is the time where we have to make sure that we legalize this substance thoughtfully and in a way that helps address the harms caused by prohibition,” Morgan Fox, media relations director for the National Cannabis Industry Association, told Weedmaps News. “We also can't take it for granted as inevitable.”
Fox said he'll be celebrating this 4/20 at the National Cannabis Festival in Washington, D.C., a major event with a day-long forum on April 19, 2019, and a festival on April 20. Fox said he hopes that by this time next year, more states will have legalized cannabis, and the cannabis industry will get banking access.
Though incremental reforms over the past year have improved access to cannabis since the last 4/20, some states had major changes. Michigan legalized cannabis in December; Utah and Oklahoma approved medical cannabis and Massachusetts' first dispensaries opened. We talked to people in those states about why they're celebrating.
“The state will be wild on 4/20 this year,” Rick Thompson, board member of NORML's Michigan branch and publisher of the Michigan Cannabis Industries Report, told Weedmaps News. “On April 6, Hash Bash and the Monroe Street Fairs enjoyed their largest attendance ever, and Hash Bash is 48 years old. The adult use of cannabis law has emboldened many people who had been shy about showing off their cannabis use,” Thompson said.
Events are planned all across the state, and Thompson expects that medical cannabis shops will be offering discounts on 4/20.
“It is impossible to say how I feel about cannabis use being legalized for adult use in Michigan because it encompasses so many emotions,” Thompson said. “There is relief, pride, enthusiasm, and gratitude, of course, but also concern about the future of small business, the dismissal of patient needs by non-patients, and the influence big money will play in forming the program's rules.”
Thompson said he hopes that by the next 4/20, Michigan will have enacted laws to expunge cannabis crimes from the criminal records of people without them having to petition the courts.
Utah residents are celebrating the state's new medical cannabis program, and Desiree Hennessy, director of the Utah Patients Coalition, said there's still a long way to go to help medical cannabis patients in the state.
“For years, advocates in Utah have fought to be able to have a medical cannabis plan--legal access to offer relief to suffering patients,” Hennessy said. “November 6, 2018, we voted on and passed a medical cannabis ballot initiative. It wasn't easy and we still have a long way to go to make this a great plan for patients.”
Hennessy said that “4/20 will no doubt be celebrated by our recreational population” but this year they will also be joined by “cancer patients, pain patients, and parents finally able to offer their child relief.
“This year in Utah 4/20 looks more like a celebration of a battle won, and hope for our future,” she said.
Oklahoma residents also are celebrating a new medical cannabis program, and we spoke to the owner of a medical cannabis dispensary about how people are feeling in the state.
“The people and patients of Oklahoma are extremely excited! It has been an awesome opportunity for everyone involved,” said Amanda Cseh, owner of The Joint Cannabis Club in Oklahoma City. The dispensary will be hosting a popular food truck, The Fried Taco, offering specials and discounts, plus a “fattie” with any purchase.
Cseh said people with chronic pain, opioid addiction, anxiety, cancer and more have become customers, many of whom had never tried cannabis until the medical program started.
“It's been really rewarding for us just trying to research all of our products and give our honest opinion on what has worked for us and other people experiencing the same things,” Cseh said. “We feel like cannabis is helping patients every day!”
Maggie Kinsella, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition (MassCann), told Weedmaps their organization will be celebrating at the 28th annual Extravaganja event in Northampton, Mass. this year. She said there's much to celebrate but also a lot that needs to change.
“I think people are feeling either bold or discouraged, to be honest,” she said. “In Massachusetts, we had a huge opportunity to create an equitable, inclusive, and accessible industry and the state just dropped the ball on implementing the will of the people. Now, consumers, patients, and the illicit market are being blamed instead of taking responsibility for being unable to deliver a fully regulated market in a timely fashion.”
Kinsella said she hopes the state will begin offering expungement funds soon and that the industry will become more equitable and inclusive.