4/20 Events: A Holiday for Weed Fans, Complete With Corporate Sponsors

In the culture of cannabis, April 20 is a holiday when those who partake light up in enjoyment and in protest of prohibition.

Although the origins of “4/20” are debated — according to popular lore, a group of California high school students in the 1970s met after school at 4:20 p.m. to smoke weed — the day has been globally celebrated for years.

Until recently in New York, celebrations carried the risk of arrest or fines, so they would often take place in secret locations or places where the authorities were somewhat lenient, like Washington Square Park. Smoke-ins were sometimes staged as a form of protest. In 2020, the police busted a pot party in Manhattan, not because people were smoking weed but because they were flouting social-distancing rules during the pandemic.

But since the state legalized marijuana in 2021 and lifted pandemic restrictions, the protests have largely subsided. And a growing number of celebrations — some with brand sponsors — have emerged, catering to users new and old as well as people who are just “canna-curious.”

This year, as the state’s legal cannabis industry has expanded and cannabis use has gained acceptance, the variety of events has expanded. In addition to private parties and smokeouts, there are comedy shows and block parties. Happy Munkey, an events company, is hosting a cruise aboard a Hornblower vessel.

Not all events are focused on consuming cannabis. A workshop at MARY Fest, a new event in Brooklyn whose name plays on one of weed’s monikers, Mary Jane, teaches participants how to grow cannabis at home. Upside Pizza collaborated with Gotham, a dispensary on the Bowery in Lower Manhattan, on a secret menu. And Trends, a dispensary on Long Island, is streaming the N.B.A. playoffs and serving chicken wings.

If you have seen the YouTube talk show “Hot Ones,” in which the hosts interview celebrities as they eat increasingly hot chicken wings, then you understand the concept of “Hot Dabs,” a podcast whose most recent episode was recorded with an audience on Saturday at a cannabis-friendly co-working space in Manhattan.

Instead of eating meat, the hosts and guests of the podcast take increasingly hot dabs. Dabbing is a method of consuming weed that involves placing marijuana concentrate in a glass rig, heating it until it evaporates, then inhaling it.

At Saturday’s event, called Dabs and Lattes, the guest was J.P. Toro, a celebrated rig maker whose creations can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

A haze hung over the room as the host, Dustan Mipuck, who goes by Hashaveli, asked Mr. Toro about his first experience dabbing. In the crowd, made up mostly of men from out of town, people who had brought their own rigs and lighters chose from resins with names like Morocco Peaches and paired them with coffee prepared at a bar inside the co-working space, Work’n’Roll, in Chelsea.

Justin Page, 41, brought Raincatcher No. 21, a rig in the shape of a nude woman with purple leaves for hair who is catching a raindrop with an opal inside.

Mr. Page, an event producer in Missouri, said that New York seemed to be overtaking California as the top destination for cannabis enthusiasts on 4/20 because of the growth of established brands and the city’s largely untamed market. (New York is rife with unlicensed weed shops.)

“It’s wild out here,” he said, adding that New York “is growing on me.”

Some inveterate weed consumers prefer to “wake and bake,” slang for smoking upon arising. For the more active set, this year’s 4/20 festivities in New York City have also included a “Wake and Bike” ride.

Shortly before 11 Saturday morning, a group led by Social Cycling NYC, an informal collective of bikers who usually ride together on Thursday nights, peeled off from near Central Park on a 19-mile ride. The group wound down through Manhattan and crossed the Manhattan Bridge, finally settling at Hunters Point South Park in Queens.

On a grassy hill with expansive views of the city skyline, some people lit up joints and ate snacks. Paulo Garcia, a Filipino immigrant who lives in East Harlem, said the bike ride brought together two interests that were dangerous to enjoy in his homeland: biking and smoking weed.

In the Philippines, said Mr. Garcia, 41, there is no infrastructure for biking, like designated lanes, and the government has waged a violent campaign against the use of marijuana and other drugs that are illegal there.

“People were asking me, Why are you so stoked?” he said. “I came from a country where they kill you for smoking weed.”

New York had decriminalized low-level possession of cannabis by the time Justin Bloomfield, 20, a native of Brooklyn, started smoking in high school. He would hide it from his mother, he said, the same way that generations before him hid their use from the authorities.

But now, he said, he feels free to use it publicly even though he is two weeks shy of the minimum legal age.

“I have the luxury of being able to walk outside whenever I want to, roll up whenever I want to and smoke wherever I want to,” he said.

However, he said it would be nice to have more designated spaces to smoke weed in places like parks and bars. Regulators have not issued licenses for consumption lounges or events yet.

At MARY Fest, in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Krys Wolf, a professional joint-roller, was one of the biggest draws. A line of patrons waited as Ms. Wolf rolled, sealed and bedazzled their blunts with rhinestones in her signature look.

In a small room to the side, Maxence Majot prepared to teach a workshop on growing cannabis at home. New York finalized regulations this spring that let residents keep six plants, three mature and three immature, in their homes.

Michelle Sajous, 61, already had the right, as a medical cannabis patient, and she decided it was time to learn. She is part of a team opening a dispensary in the Bronx at Co-op City, the housing complex where she is also a manager.

“Let’s get it going,” said Ms. Sajous, who had her lower left leg amputated in 2019 because of complications of diabetes. “I’ve been smoking for 50 years,” she added. “It’s about time I get my own stuff.”

Eric Mosley, 34, a yoga instructor, stretched his arms to the sky on the lawn of Prospect Park in Brooklyn, where a dozen or so people wearing headphones and sitting on picnic blankets followed him through the motions. The picnic was hosted by Flamer, a queer-themed weed brand.

Around them, hundreds of people — friends, roommates, relatives — passed joints and munched on cookies and chips. Nick Brown, 31, and Kim Vivas, 29, who are partners, shared with their friends, Keilley Banks, 25, and Han Hansen, 26.

Mr. Brown and Ms. Vivas, who identify as Afro-Latino, said their bond included the shared experience of having fathers who were jailed over marijuana. Ms. Vivas, whose father died in 2016, said that being able to smoke in the open gave her “a sense of vengeance or revenge.”

Mr. Brown agreed, adding that as a man of color who might otherwise be targeted by the police, it “feels cool not being arrested for enjoying this.”

A round of applause erupted as Mr. Mosley finished his yoga session. In an interview, he explained that as cannabis gained acceptance, many wellness practitioners began incorporating it into their sessions.

“It’s legitimizing a practice that many marginalized people, people of color, have used for healing,” he said. “There’s work to be done to make it more equitable, but it’s a really good start.”

As the sun descended, the attendees trickled out of the park. But the festivities were far from over.

The evening’s events include a comedy show with an all-woman lineup and parties at newer venues like the city’s cannabis museum, THC NYC, and well-known ones like Terminal 5.

The session was ending, but the night was young.

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