This Year’s 4/20 Celebrations Will Be the Biggest Yet as Weedmaps, Killer Mike, Berner, B-Real Roll Out Promotions

The origins of 4/20 as a national cannabis holiday — what President Day is for mattress sales and St. Patrick’s Day is for wearing another kind of green — dates back to 1971, when a group of stoner buddies at San Rafael High School in Marin County dubbed the Waldos — for their predilection to hang out and smoke on a campus wall — would meet by a statue of chemist Louis Pasteur on the campus at 4:20 p.m. to search for a fabled secret stash of pot hidden deep in the Point Reyes National Seashore.

The term stuck as a code word for herb culture, and it’s become an international calling card for cannabis enthusiasts.

“Retail events, product drops, shows… it’s a celebration of marijuana,” says Berner (Gilbert Milam Jr.), a pioneering Bay Area rapper-turned-cannabis entrepreneur like two of his clients, Cypress Hill’s B-Real (Louis Freese) and Run the Jewels’ Killer Mike (Michael Santiago Render). “I remember being in seventh or eighth grade and getting high at 4:20 every day. It started in San Rafael with the Waldos, but it’s traveled all over the world. Everyone wanted to get high at that time.”

Berner, who opened a Cookies store on Melrose Avenue in 2018, owns 48 total retail locations (including his CBD-oriented Lemonnade chain) in nine states in the U.S. and five countries, including one apiece in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. He will also be busy with a number of promotions on that day, including the launch of his new cannabis-friendly social media app, Social Club, in conjunction with Weedmaps, the cannabis business and technology website set to position itself as the “Amazon of weed” when full legalization takes place.

Weedmaps CMO/COO Juanjo Feijoo notes that his commerce site experienced a 250% increase in traffic last April 20.

“Our goal has always been to be with the core cannabis community,” says Feijoo. “If they celebrate 4/20, so will we, by promoting and supporting both ongoing and new events. What we’re trying to do is celebrate in a more mainstream way. Cannabis culture is becoming a much bigger tent.  We see our position in the industry as one of advocate.”

To that end, they are producing, along with VICE-TV, a four-part documentary series, “Tumbleweeds with Killer Mike,” as the RTJ rapper visits four cities — Las Vegas, San Francisco, New York and Chicago — holding conversations about weed with comedians, visiting dispensaries as well as cannabis-friendly clothing stores, local restaurants, art galleries and pizza parlors.  The first two episodes in Las Vegas and San Francisco, will drop on 4/20, with the New York episode on April 30 and Chicago on May 7, followed by a marathon of all four episodes May 14.

There couldn’t be a better 420 spokesman than Killer Mike, a rabble-rousing political activist and astute businessman whose actual birthday falls on April 20, which makes for a hearty double celebration every year.

“I can’t believe they’re paying me to do this shit I’d do for free,” he says, taking some time for a Zoom call in between visiting the several barber shops and real estate properties he owns in the Atlanta area. “At each community, I witnessed a great interconnectivity between entertainers and business owners.  It was the perfect job for me.”

Killer Mike has been involved in cannabis since he was 10 or 11, remembering his mom being a lifelong pot smoker, which helped with her bipolar disorder. “I can remember getting up to go to school and she’d be smoking a joint doing my sister’s hair. And she’d say if the teacher mentioned the smell, have her spray some perfume and call her. What we didn’t know at the time was both our teachers smoked, too.”

B-Real plans to celebrate 4/20 at his sixth and newest Dr. Greenthumb’s dispensary near LAX by introducing his new budget weed of the same name alongside his top-shelf Insane brand.

“I remember playing 4/20 gigs at the Fillmore and the Warfield before several thousand,” says the Cypress Hill hip-hop legend. “Then playing an outdoor 4/20 festival recently in Vancouver in front of 150,000 people.”

This year’s slate of events will include the Weedmaps-sponsored, Berner-promoted 420 Hippie Hill festival at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, where the marijuana mogul is planning on selling weed.  It’s the first time in three years the festival will take place, this year featuring cannabis celebs like boxing champ-turned-CBD gummy guru Mike Tyson, comedians Jeff Ross and Hannibal Buress (Eshu Tune) and DJ Dojah.

Among other WeedMaps-supported events in and around 4/20 are The Roll Up in Massachusetts, Spleef Speakeasy in New York City, FlyHi 420 in Denver, 4/20 Block Party in Missoula, Montana, Cannabis Culture Film Fest in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, Four-Twenty Experience and Waldos Forever Fest in Chicago and National Cannabis Festival in Washington D.C.

The Northern Nights Music Festival (pictured), meanwhile, used 4/20 to announce it will sell cannabis products at its stages via multiple on-site dispensaries during its upcoming 2022 edition. The fest, which was the first to offer legal onsite cannabis sales and consumption back in 2019, takes place July 15 to 17 at Cook’s Valley Campground in Northern California on the Humboldt/Mendocino border and will feature music and cannabis programming against a gorgeous backdrop of nature.

Courtesy @gettiny

For Weedmaps’ Feijoo, 4/20 is about normalizing cannabis culture, promoting its use in cases of PTSD or chemotherapy, spreading the word on the usefulness of the hemp plant, pointing out the latest research that shows 76% of people who consume cannabis are comfortable with people in their lives knowing about it. “That’s part of the evolution which has allowed 4/20 to come into its own. Is there a world where Weedmaps can be for 4.20 what Guinness beer is for St. Patrick’s Day? The fact is, it’s less about us and more about supporting the cannabis community.”

Berner has a very personal reason to tout cannabis’ medicinal qualities having used it to battle the nausea caused by three months of chemotherapy for cancer. “The only way I got through was smoking weed,” he testifies. “I smoked so much, my oncologist went through the roof. That’s why I didn’t lose hella-hella weight. I had a joint in my hand every second because the nausea was so intense. Everything I’d ever worked for came full circle to help me big-time.”

Other issues facing the industry at 4/20 include how to treat legacy growers — who have been decimated by both taxes and regulations — and those still unfairly imprisoned for cannabis possession or distribution.

Says Berner: “This may be a big business, but it’s a small industry. My goal is to keep people who have been in the game, the best breeders, the best growers.  My nightmare is that there is no good cannabis on the shelf in the future. I want to preserve the genetics, secure a brand that outlives me, based on the best menus in the world. My goal is to organize the first strains to go to Mars. If they’re going to colonize, I want to supply that cannabis that gets sent into space from the best breeders in the world.”

In one “Tumbleweeds” episode, Killer Mike talks to legendary rapper Fab Five Freddy “pushing the line” for a brother, Bernard Noble, who got locked up and served time for two joints, then went on to co-found the Curaleaf brand B-Noble, which donates to industry-supported organizations that help those incarcerated for cannabis like the non-profit Last Prisoner Project.

Killer Mike has no love lost for the current Democratic administration’s foot-dragging on federal legalization, which is also one of the goals of 4/20, to show everyone the work is not yet done.

“I supported Bernie Sanders’ stand to take cannabis off Schedule 1,” Mike says of the narcotic designation for marijuana, alongside such substances as heroin or chemicals identified as having no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. “I support national legalization. I’m ashamed that America has more people locked up for drug offenses than any other country in the world. I’m ashamed that a President, who has a son that’s dealt with addiction, is not more understanding of marijuana, in particular. It seems like there’s something personal in the hurt with his son that gets in the way of his judgment. I’m ashamed that a former prosecutor, a Black woman who went to Howard and grew up listening to Tupac, oversaw all those anti-drug cases.”

Adds Weedmaps’ Feijoo: “This is not a partisan policy. Democrats, Republicans and independents are all in favor of some form of federal legalization.  The people are ahead of where the legislators are and must continue to put pressure on them to get where we need to be.”

A sobering thought for what should be a festive celebration of this remarkably versatile weed.

“The world is starting to open its eyes to this incredible plant,” continues Berner. “It’s not this evil substance it was painted to be. More importantly, we always treat it like a medicine, even when it’s recreational, whether you use it for PTSD, chemotherapy or just for lightening the mood after a rough day.”

B-Real has the last word on 4/20. “It’s a national holiday… It’s celebrated in places where weed isn’t even legal. And it’s just going to get bigger and bigger.”