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Marijuana industry tested in virus crisis

The unofficial holiday celebrating all things cannabis arrives Monday as the nation’s emerging legal marijuana market braces for an economic blow from the coronavirus crisis, with many consumers reducing spending or going underground for deals.

It was supposed to be a long weekend of festivals and music culminating on April 20, or 4/20, the code for marijuana’s high holiday. Instead, it has been reduced to an online replica because of stay-at-home orders to curb the pandemic.

Virtual parties and video chats are replacing vast outdoor smoking sessions to mark the rise of legalization and celebrate cannabis culture. The origins of the annual celebration are believed tied to a group of Northern California high school friends, who used the code as slang for smoking pot in the early 1970s.

“Stay home,” the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, said bluntly. San Francisco Mayor London Breed threatened arrests: “We will not tolerate anyone coming to San Francisco for 4/20 this year.”

For businesses, 4/20 is usually their once-a-year Black Friday, when sales soar. Instead, they are reporting up-and-down buying and pondering an uncertain future. [Read more at AP]

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