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Thinking 4/20 is Meh? Think Again — It’s Massive

Marijuana’s big holiday, 4/20, is a huge day for cannabis sales. In fact, it’s the biggest one-day event of the year for the industry — last year between Colorado, Washington, Oregon and California 4/20, which fell on a Thursday, led to $36.3 million in sales according to cannabis market research firm BDS Analytics. By way of comparison, another huge sales day last year, the Friday of Labor Day Weekend, reached $25 million. That is a difference of 44 percent — significant! However, 4/20 is nothing like holidays in other industries, such as Christmas or even Halloween, that boost sales for prolonged periods of time.

No, 4/20 is a one-day affair, although this year could be at least slightly different. Ever since Colorado legalized recreational cannabis in 2014, the holiday has fallen on a weekday. But this year, 4/20 lands on a Friday. Will what has been a one-day affair transform into a three-day sales bonanza? We will find out.

Either way, looking back at last year’s 4/20 to understand what is right around the corner this year is instructive. For retailers and brands that think 4/20 isn’t a big deal — think again. Sales on the big day are enormous, and cannabis enthusiasts are out in droves to socialize, shop and try new things. 

The first thing to know about 4/20 is everything is on sale — every vape pen, gram of Live Resin, bag of gummies, vial of pills, jar of salve, ounce of OG Kush and pre-rolled joint. When average sales prices on 4/20 are compared to the rest of the year, they are measurably lower: Among California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado together, the average retail sales price for a gram or item (by item, for example, one sku of an edible or vape pen) was $9.52 for 2017. But on 4/20, that average sales price was $7.79 — that’s a 22 percent difference. Among the analyzed states, the price difference was most dramatic — 27 percent — in Oregon, where the average retail on 4/20 was $8.70 but across 2017 it was $11.05.

So sales campaigns are epic — alt-weeklies must LOVE 4/20 — and people head out to their pot shops in droves on the holiday. But what are they buying?

4/20 across all states saw upped sales of flower compared to flower’s market share during the rest of the year.

The most striking difference between 4/20 last year and the 2017 average was the upped attention paid to flower by cannabis consumers. Across 2017 in California, for example, consumers spent enough on flower for the category to capture 50 percent of retail sales. But on 4/20, flower’s market share rose to 57 percent, a boost of 14 percent. The story is roughly the same, although slightly less dramatic, in Colorado and Oregon. In the Centennial State, flower sales reprsented 48 percent of all cannabis transactions during 2017. But on 4/20, 53 percent of sales were devoted to flower. The difference was roughly the same in the Beaver State — 47 percent for 2017, but 52 percent on 4/20. The difference in the Evergreen State is less pronounced — 54 percent during 2017, and 55 percent on 4/20.

These variations in flower sales are not shocking, but they are illustrative of flower’s important role during the holiday.

These elevations of flower’s market share come at the expense of concentrates and edibles. In all states, edibles portion of market share dipped compared to the year-long average: In Colorado, down from 15 percent during 2017 to 13 percent on 4/20; Oregon down from 13 percent to 11 percent; Washington from 9 to 8 percent; and California from 13 percent to 11 percent. The differences between 2017 averages and 4/20 for concentrates are about the same — roughly a two percent drop in market share for 4/20.

The holiday is just 10 days away, and retailers and brands in cities across the country are prepping for promotions, crowds and lots of good times. With California now part of the recreational universe, the good times are set to roll in an even more dramatic fashion.

Doug Brown

Doug Brown

Douglas Brown spent more than two decades in newspaper and magazine newsrooms around the country, covering everything from the White House and Capitol Hill to technology policy to crime in New Mexico. Now, he runs Contact High Communications, a leading cannabis public relations firm based in Boulder, CO. He can be reached at

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