“On 4/20 grab your buds and call D.P. Dough to get 4 calzones for $20,” reads a D.P. Dough advertisement scattered across campus last week. It also noted that D.P. Dough has been “fresh baked since ‘87.” For some, the ad appears simple and straightforward, but to anyone familiar with marijuana-enthusiast terminology, there are some pretty heavy-handed references to the cannabis culture holiday of “4/20.”
The observance’s beginnings are not entirely clear. A recent Huffington Post article says that it started with California police officers using the code “420” for Marijuana smoking. Fans of the Grateful Dead, according to the article, reclaimed the term and turned it into a verb (“420ing”) and ultimately a holiday.
Others claim that 4:20 p.m. just happens to be the most convenient time for most smokers, who statistically tend to be young, to “420.”
D.P. Dough is not the only local business to reference the holiday.
“Hungry Huskies actually came up with it, we were just the first to sign up for it,” Jeff Natale, co-owner of Wally’s Chicken Coop said. Hungry Huskies, a local organization that promotes restaurants near the Storrs campus, put out a “4:20 Deals Menu.”
The menu offered deals from businesses such as D.P. Dough, Wally’s, Sgt. Pepperoni and Ted’s Restaurant priced at $4.20.
When asked about the University of Connecticut’s policy on drug references in advertising, spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said, “The university wouldn’t get involved in the advertising decisions of local businesses and whether they choose to highlight particular events or trends.”
When asked about D.P. Dough’s advertisement, Cory Hill, owner of D.P. Dough, said, “D.P. Dough is a part of life around UConn regarding eating, and it’s not just to make a profit but to be part of the culture.”
Tyler Williams, 8th-semester history major and president of UConn Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, commented on this cultural aspect of the observance and where it intersects public policy.
“This counter-culture holiday is important,” Williams said, “because it raises visibility for marijuana and marijuana-related policy. It is a great publicity opportunity for drug reform groups to reach out and call for radical change to our drug policy.”
The date is observed in multiple ways on college campuses throughout the country. The University of Colorado’s Boulder campus had closed previous years, as part of an effort to curtail petty mischief, but the school remained open this year.
“We don’t see much hitting blunts on the quads, but you know it’s happening.” Antoinette Canieso, 4th semester graphic design major at the University of New Haven, said.
Olivia Numa, 4th semester computer science and studio art major at the University of Vermont, said that in the college town of Burlington “the cops let it slide as long as the smokers aren’t causing trouble.”
In Storrs, Natale said, “We get some stories Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays but on 4/20 it’s more of a low key holiday. People have just got the munchies.”
He continued, “These deals are another way to support college students with home-cooked food for a good price.”
Williams expressed approval of the deals. University students, he said, deal with numerous fees and charges from the university on top of tuition and housing and are generally low on money. “I’m also happy that local businesses are at the very least subtly tipping their caps to marijuana usage in a positive way,” he continued, “I think that we’re all honestly a little tired of the ‘hungry stoner’ trope.”
Observances of 4/20 have become increasingly open as social attitudes regarding marijuana use change. “Businesses have always been trying to capitalize on counter-culture tropes throughout the years in order to reach niche markets, especially in places that have a large student population,” Williams said, “I think that the boldness of these ad campaigns may suggest that businesses don’t look at it as a risky move to associate themselves, however marginally, with marijuana.”
The advertisements certainly do more good than bad for the businesses, at least in areas where the majority of their customers are liberal college students. “I’ve done it before and it does work,” Hill said. “It’s my seventh year doing this advertising. Students, whether they’re from E.O. Smith or from UConn, they get it out there. It’s not something you just throw away. You keep it, you remember, you put it on your fridge.”
When asked if he would personally partake, Hill laughed and said, “Regarding the holiday? For sure.”