From a rocky past year to a brilliant outlook, this year’s 420 cannabis holiday marks a unique time in the industry 


History and significance

The modern tradition of celebration on 4/20 actually dates back the early 1970’s. The origin is attributed to a group of Californian students who met everyday at 4:20 to search for a legendary missing cannabis crop. The 4:20 moniker, propagated by devout enthusiasts, eventually matured to become the official time of the day for consuming cannabis. After cannabis took root as an industry, 4/20 became the unofficial date to celebrate the culture, the milestones, and the legal struggles of the cannabis field in general.

Although there are alternative views of its origin (some attribute the name to the famous Bob Dylan song which refrains “everybody must get stoned”, where the title “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” is thought to be linked to the equation 12x35=420), the tradition has matured to become both a day celebrate accomplishments and time to reflect on the future growth of the industry.

420 is special this year

Although every year sees changes in this rapidly developing field -- this year is unique. The world is recovering from a global pandemic. The past year witnessed setbacks, including the shutdown of grow operations, processing facilities, and testing labs that became financially unsustainable. At the same time, the industry experienced positive and unprecedented developments. These include:

  • Consumer sales, which surged before the pandemic shelter-in place restrictions began, and continued upward, ending on a high note of record US sales for FY 2020.
  • Advancements in legalization, with five more states adopting plans following the US national elections.
  • Formalization of the US domestic hemp program by adoption of the “final rule”, providing defined structure and support for farmers and processors in the legal hemp industry.
  • Steadfast research and development in cultivation, extraction, testing, and therapeutic technologies, despite financial freezes seen in other industries.

At the onset of 2021, the turbulence of 2020 transitioned to optimism as a number of significant events whirled into motion, including:

  • New York officially signed into law full legalization, which promises a huge windfall for all areas of the industry from sales, to testing, to product development.
  • New Jersey passed legalization, with many other states on the block as well.
  • State-level developments possibly leading the way to the eventual US federal legalization, which would translate to vast improvements in quality control, standardization, regulation, and other challenging areas.

The resilience over the past year and into 2021 shows that the industry has grown to a critical point, where temporary setbacks and challenges are met with unified solutions.  As an example of this resilience and unity, the hemp industry recently faced challenges by an unclear stipulation in federal regulations that stated at no point in hemp cultivation and processing were hemp materials to contain greater than 0.3% THC. Fully aware that certain extraction processes may exceed this threshold prior to dilution and downstream processing, industry professionals overwhelmingly voiced their concern and the rules were clarified. This action was taken by the industry to stem any issues that may arise in the future to threaten a still vulnerable but strengthening hemp economy.

The 420 celebrations are different this year

The 420 celebrations have changed in 2021. This year, events such as the annual 420 festivities in San Francisco were cancelled to avoid social gathering amidst the ongoing pandemic. No doubt many other 420 events have been stricken this year due to the conditions.

Noticeable this year, however, is the attention vendors and businesses have placed on consumer buying habits.  Several sites have offered tips such as “7 Types of Cannabis Buyers” and “4/20 Stats and Facts”, in order to help the industry better understand the trends of cannabis consumers. Others have predicted 4/20 to be the highest day of consumer sales in history.

Also apparent is the growing extent that cannabis has migrated into mainstream culture. For instance, the Food Network is debuting a new cannabis cooking show ‘Chopped 420' (on 4/20 of course), where guest chefs will cook full-course meals all incorporating cannabis in the preparations.

Even state governments are getting involved with 4/20 fanfare. Colorado is auctioning off cannabis-theme license plates in the days up to the holiday. The revenue from this initiative will be put to good use with the Colorado Disability Funding Committee.

Industry outlook

This resilience in the face of adversity, and the positive outlook moving forward, are indicative of great opportunities for the processing and testing areas of the industry. The domestic hemp program has reached a major milestone, legalization is surging forward, product development has led to more capable and versatile devices for testing. The future is most certainly bright -- cheers to a unique and promising 420 celebration this year.

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