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While plans for events and other “mass gatherings” have gone out the window this spring, some cannabis businesses are pivoting toward the internet to maintain their connection with the broader community. Lightshade, a cannabis retailer with locations in Denver and Aurora, Colo., is looking forward to its Virtual 4/20 Party next week. 

Lisa Gee, director of marketing and corporate social responsibility at Lightshade, says that planning began at the end of 2019. Because cannabis retailers are caught in a regulatory “gray area,” she says, Lightshade has taken a pass on sponsoring major community events. It’s easier to bring everything in-house and keep the spotlight on cannabis. They had big ideas for how to celebrate 4/20 this year, when the entire month of April would represent the industry’s favorite date.

“This year,” she says. “given the unique environment that we’re all operating in right now because of COVID-19, really early on, I would say around Feb. 10 or 15, we started thinking, ‘This is not going to happen. 4/20 as we know it is tabled for now.’”

So, the business looked toward the internet for a way to keep the cannabis community united in some way. While so much of the American workforce has taken to Skype and Zoom for group meetings and events, Lightshade is going to do the same. The Virtual 4/20 Party will provide a fun day of music and comedy, featuring Colorado DJs, singers and bands performing with comedian Sam Clark working the MC role remotely. Chef David Hadley will offer some cooking (with cannabis) lessons during the party, too. 

Lightshade’s corporate social responsibility program is connected to a lot of nonprofits in Denver and Aurora, so this party will include its own fundraising component, as well. Donations will support Cannabis Doing Good, a collaborative partnership in Colorado. And various product manufacturers and other vendors will contribute proceeds from the Virtual 4/20 Party to local nonprofits. 

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Gee says that Lightshade saw several early sales spikes as the coronavirus outbreak triggered a shelter-in-place order in Colorado. The mayor of Denver then claimed that cannabis dispensaries would not be considered essential businesses, prompting another surge in sales, before relenting and allowing those businesses to stay open. Sales fell off about 40% for a few days once a large portion of the customer and patient base had secured their needs. “And now, we are on our way back up again,” Gee says.

Lightshade has been offering 25% off many products in its store throughout the whole month of April, another nod to the once-in-a-century month-long 4/20 extravaganza, all things considered.

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