By Tom Layou

Well, shit. We’re here. 4/20 for a whole month and we can’t even pass a blunt around.

Normally, if you cough a lot in the session you might seem like a noob, but right now you’d catch side eye like you were Typhoid Tommy Chong. Years ago it was something vaguely present in the stoner zeitgeist. You might be chillin’, getting ready to sync up ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ with the ‘Wizard of Oz’, when someone poured neatly into the couch would say, “Dude,” all slow and low-toned. “In 2020 it’s going to be four-twenty for a whole month!”

“Dude!” we enthusiasts theorized, “what are we going to do when it’s four-twenty, ON 4/20?”

How would you commemorate that? If it’s been a few years or a few decades, wherever you are on your travels with weed, what kind of celebration would be fitting for the four-twentyfest 4/20 to ever happen?

Recreationally legal D.C. might have turned the Washington Monument into a giant bong. In Vegas you could shotgun a hit to your sweetie before leaning back off the bungee platform at the Stratosphere, or attend a gravity bong rally at the Bellagio. Flood the Statue of Liberty with New York stoners who all spark it in the viewing deck at exactly 4:20 and send a smoke column up from Lady Liberty herself.

As COVID crept in, becoming less of a foreign abstraction and more the kind of thing that was going to affect daily life, I started to hear about events being canceled, but there was a precautionary feel to it. As bars and gathering places closed in March it looked less like there would be major festivities, but Anchorage’s original Hunker Down order happened early enough to leave hope of pulling something together once people could move freely again. Then Hunker Down was extended to April 15, in a sense enough time to put at least a nice house party on, but it seemed like people knew already.

As April moved along the cannabis community has bitterly accepted that 4:20 on the afternoon of 4/20 in the year 2020 is going to be sort of a cosmic ripoff for stoners.

And it’s not like we can’t get high. Thankfully cannabis shops are still open through quarantine. The problem is we can’t get high together.

I was nineteen the first time I celebrated 4/20. I had just started smoking and I didn’t really know the parties were a thing. I had heard of that being the time to smoke, but I didn’t know the day, 4/20, was a holiday for everyone who liked to chief.

I was kicking around the U.S. and happened to be in Moscow, Idaho. The town was small and conservative. I couldn’t get my head around the fact there was a festival in a park in the middle of town dedicated to marijuana. I had only known weed as the kind of thing one friend quietly admitted to another, rather than something you announced with a certain air of protest. Smoking weed wasn’t something you did without shame.

But here were a bunch of stoners, crusty hippies on the stage and in the crowd, clean college kids, and old people, who had all showed up to celebrate the plant, with zero subterfuge. There wasn’t anything mind-blowing to the festival. There was one stage and sometimes nobody was on it. There were a few booths. People sneaked hits off bowls here and there and played hacky sack or hula-hooped. It was almost a little sad and boring. But it meant something to these people to come and distinguish themselves from the rest of the population. To show up at a party for little reason other than to publicly say, “I get high.”

After the festival I went to a new friend’s house and learned to prepare the 4/20 special, grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. Simple enough to make while totally baked, and absolutely phenomenal when you have munchies.

It was 4/20 celebrated right almost twenty years ago. The names are gone, the conversations and faces are gone. When I try to remember it I just remember a sparse and tranquil living room, sun pouring in, and that feeling of friendliness between smokers.

It’s weird how smoking weed unifies people; pulls everyone together and squeezes them onto a similar wavelength.

Culturally, most smokers are coming from the era of the black market, which required and engendered solidarity. You had to be careful who you smoked with and where you talked about it, and almost anyone who successfully navigated the market was a friend. People agreed we wanted to get stoned, and that couldn’t help but bring us together.

Even now with cannabis legal, just knowing a person enjoys that state of mind is a commonality. You meet someone you think couldn’t possibly have any of the same interests you do and when weed comes up it’s like, “Oh, you smoke?” Suddenly you have something to talk about and a way to be social together. A way to find out in relaxed conversation you do have similarities. Or you may find yourself in the presence of truly peculiar individuals and appreciate their eccentricity. Weed is great like that.

I can’t talk about social smoking without thinking about Pot Luck and that sweet time of seeing just how long we could get away with a weed club downtown without the city squashing it. A whole building, both floors stuffed full of stoners, all taking turns on the dab rigs, passing around joints, bongs, handing edibles around. Simple, beautiful things we can’t safely do right now. But this outbreak won’t be forever. Hopefully there will be room in the new norm for the old smokedowns.

This year we kind of have to sit it out. We will have to be more low key in the celebrations we looked forward to. Find some way for it to be fun at home. Hotbox a blanket fort and eat a lot of snacks. Maybe do the Dark Side of the Moon and Wizard of Oz thing. If you press play on the music when the MGM lion roars the third time, it totally works.

Or maybe I was just high.

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