by Erika Berglund and Samantha Trombley
“420” has become synonymous with cannabis culture, and as state-by-state medical and recreational legalization has increased over the past decade – as of April 2022, 37 states have legalized the medical use of cannabis and 18 states legalized cannabis for recreational purposes – April 20 has been elevated to an unofficial holiday for consumers. And, now that it’s become increasingly normalized, brands are seeing the immense value in creating specific ad and PR campaigns focused on the unique language, humor, etiquette and art that comes from cannabis culture. However, it’s important to recognize one of the main values shared among many in the cannabis community: advocacy for social justice and positive impact on systemic issues.
How are companies promoting social justice, equity and community service on a holiday that marks celebration for a substance that is closely related to a dark and very recent history of the United States’ War on Drugs, racist law enforcement policies and mass incarceration? Here are a few of our favorite 4/20 campaigns from an array of brands that go a step further than a good ganja pun to foster real change.
Ben & Jerry’s
In addition to incorporating 420-friendly flavors into its batting order – favorites such as Satisfy My Bowl, Half Baked, and Dave Matthews Band Magic Brownies Encore Edition – the notorious ice cream maker stands behind social justice causes, including around marijuana.
Ben & Jerry’s, known for transparent promotion of the company’s social values, created a campaign to support the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, or MORE Act, which would make cannabis legal nationwide and ensure that the people most impacted by the War on Drugs and mass incarceration – people of color – actually benefit from cannabis decriminalization.
The company implemented an action plan to encourage followers to reach out to Congress to express support of the MORE Act now that the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the legislation and is being taken up by the U.S. Senate.
The beloved ice cream makers also recently hinted at a new flavor collab with Chance the Rapper, Mint Chocolate Chance, that will donate a portion of proceeds to the Chicago-based rapper’s non-profit organization for youth empowerment, Social Works. We love to see it, Ben & Jerry’s.
The notorious meat-stick snack brand has recently entered the Dogecoin scene through its iconic use of memes. With its close ties to Dogecoin – most recently through its launch of its own Dogecoin – in 2021, Slim Jim used 420 to launch a Doge-themed Slim Jim snack to partner with the Do Only Good Everyday community to benefit the World Central Kitchen, a global hunger relief nonprofit. The donation of proceeds was in addition to a $10,000 donation of its own to the group.
Wana, a woman-owned edibles company based in Boulder, CO, has made its intentions clear through its mission: enhance people’s lives through the power of cannabis, but not just through products. Wana is engaged on issues of food security, housing, domestic violence, LGBTQIA+ rights, and racial justice within the cannabis industry.
This year, Wana is fighting food insecurity through its “4ward20” campaign to weed out hunger. The organization is donating $10,000 each to 14 food-focused nonprofits – including one in each of the states where their products are sold – for a total donation of $140,000. Additionally, customers who make a donation (even just $1) will receive 10% off Wana products at participating dispensaries.
In 2021, the marijuana delivery and technology service company Weedmaps raised money for those who have been incarcerated for cannabis-related crimes through collaboration with cannabis-friendly celebrities like Snoop Doogg, A$AP Rocky, Mike Tyson and Jhené Aiko.
During the virtual “Higher Together” event, viewers can see a variety of performances and even join a session about the importance of criminal justice reform.
Whether you are passing one to the left in honor of the day, or simply sitting this year’s session out, it’s important to remember this “holiday” is to support an industry that has not always been integrated into society and everyday culture. As we celebrate, we encourage folks to think how we can make this an equitable space for all and attempt to move towards an equitable industry. Happy 420!