420’s gone mainstream – brands in all industries have taken notice of our favourite holiday and are ready to incorporate it into brand and promotions. Looking on Google Trends can reveal what consumers were searching for this year on 420:


While Canadians and Americans were primarily looking for deals with a serious case of the munchies, the US was also looking for meaning:

United States

While not all of my predictions for 420 came true, there were a couple of surprises.

1) Pre-Rolls will be the top selling category followed by flower and concentrates

1❌ / 0 ✅

According to Headset, Flower was the number one selling category for the week of 420, followed by Pre-Rolls. Beverages saw the highest sales growth by 110% in Canada and by 176% in the US. In Canada, Edibles were the second-best performing product category on 420 with 83% sales growth.

2) Hash

2❌ / 0 ✅

Wrong! I didn’t see a lot of new hash products or any interesting noise-busting promotions for hash products. I did however get a lesson on Hash and its effects from renowned product expert, Jameson Welbourn, founder of The Banyan Tree and host of the Fire is Fire podcast. Similar to flower, the different varieties of hash like dry sift, bubble hash, will produce different effects. Hash varieties can provide higher levels of THC that flower can’t provide which is why we are seeing the fast growth of the category.

3) Craft

2❌ / 1 ✅

See winners below

4) Events

2❌ / 2 ✅

Correct… sort of. Events were back with a bang in some areas that had relaxed covid restrictions while other traditional events remained postponed due to the pandemic.


1) Canna Cabana

High Tide this year gave away a Toyota Prius to one lucky member of their loyalty program, celebrating 420,000 members of the Cabana Club. By the end of the promotion, CEO Raj Grover revealed the club grew to 475,000 members. That is a big community of customers who have opted-in to have a direct line of communication with the brand get promotions, learn more about events, get deals on their favourite products, etc that can be leveraged for brand partnerships exclusive to Cabana Club community. That’s a relatively large community in this industry and an asset for Canna Cabana. numbers and, to my knowledge, the biggest loyalty group for any cannabis realtor in Canada.

2) Ghost Drops

The one word I would use to describe Ghost Drops is “momentum”. A brand from the legacy market, it has certainly entered the legal market with a bang and brought along a community of very passionate and loyal customers.

The brand unveiled its flagship retail store in Toronto’s Queen West community on April 16th. What I saw during my visit was an immersive brand experience that had their loyal community of customers waiting over an hour, lining up around the block to get in. To underscore just how loyal Ghost Drop customers are, there are 13 other cannabis stores within two – three blocks from their location, including a Tokyo Smoke right next store (where there was sadly no lineup to get in). Anyone who continues to say that brands don’t matter in the Canadian cannabis market aren’t paying attention.

Further to Ghost Drops success, their entire model is something that Licensed Producers should be paying attention to. Ghost Drops is built on scarcity.. limited time “drops” from a curated list of licensed small batch craft growers. Of those limited drops, the ones that exceed expectations are what will be considered for as a permanent SKU. The love for these products are so strong that someone created a Google spreadsheet to track different lot codes.

Ghost Drops isn’t the first cannabis brand to experience this kind of brand love in Canada. In early 2019, Broken Coast and San Rafael ’71 brands had regional customer-led groups tracking shipments to stores and stock levels, announcing if a new shipment has arrived, etc. The biggest lesson from these two examples is that the high value, premium cannabis shopper will pay higher prices (Ghost Drops currently sell for $54.95 for 3.5g or $133.50 for 14g on the OCS) if the quality matches the premium. The attention to quality appears to be authentically written in the Ghost Drops brand DNA, which can be seen as lacking from their competitors. What I also admire about the Ghost Drops model is that they don’t own or operate a square foot of cultivation space. They are licensed through Atlas Growers, who also deserve a shout-out for bringing the team on board. If you are not a low-cost cannabis provider, I would be taking a serious look at the Ghost Drop model and figuring out a way that it could work for your business. Yes, a higher cost per gram to procure, but it comes with higher wholesale margins with none of the cultivating overhead and perhaps a very loyal community.

3) Pizza Pizza

4 pizzas for $20? Sign me up. The smart people at Pizza Pizza know that 420 celebrations = munchies = $$$ and they were effective about getting their messaging out there. As you can see above they were the 5th most searched 420 phrase on Google Canada.

Similar to Oh Henry’s 4:25 bar launched a few years ago, non-cannabis brands can get involved in the holiday and reach new customers or likely in the case of Pizza Pizza, deepen their relationship with current customers. The amount of non-cannabis brands out there connecting with cannabis consumers are few, so I love to see brands like Pizza Pizza get involved and be successful. I would love to see the sales bump the promo provided if anyone at Pizza Pizza wants to share.

4) Delta 9 Cannabis Co

There are very few things in life I appreciate more than ground-breaking change and innovation that serves a consumer need.  While pop-up stores and food trucks have been around for a while, one that sells cannabis has yet to have approval in Canada…until now!  Delta 9 Cannabis Co, who owns a chain of cannabis stores in MB, SK, and AB announced on 4/20 the launch of Canada’s first mobile cannabis store. They secured a temporary licence with the LGCA to sell cannabis on-site at music festivals this year from their 8ft x 26ft self-contained unit.   This might seem like a small blip among all the activation during the coveted holiday, however, what it means from a consumer experience with the products and mainstream exposure is unparallel in my mind. Truthfully, this “might” be enough for me to go to Manitoba…

 Congrats and good luck to the Delta 9 (and to the LGCA for approving this) teams for making what had to be a difficult vision full of red tape become a reality!

5) Highly Dutch Organic

On 420, The Green Organic Dutchman brand, Highly Dutch Organic, announced a free hotline as an education resource for consumers. On the other end of the hotline were a panel of experts from budtenders to growers that were ready to answer any questions. According to the Bloomberg article, 20% of Canadians said they would be more likely to consume cannabis if there were more education.

In a Linkedin post, VP of Marketing Drew Campbell shared some very interesting stats from the campaign.

– 35 radio interviews

– calls/texts/DMs from 5 countries

– features in many (and still growing) Global media publications

– all sorts of questions including about home growing… to getting back into cannabis after a 40-year hiatus… to what to expect at a store… to cannabis industry job inquiries from an enthusiastic couple in Indiana… plus MANY more

I’m looking forward to see how the team at Highly Dutch Organics will level up this unique activation for next year’s holiday.


As I was out and about on 420 checking out the scene, I couldn’t help but think about those who are negatively impacted by cannabis-related “crimes”. As members of the global cannabis industry, we each have a responsibility to use whatever influence, power, and leverage we can to help those who are in prison for simple cannabis possession, those who can’t get a meaningful job because of a cannabis-related criminal record, and the list goes on. I challenge those who are hosting events or spending large amounts of a marketing budget towards a 420 promotion to consider matching those funds and support organizations like Norml or the Last Prisoner Project, who work tirelessly to reform cannabis laws and expunge cannabis-related criminal records. How can we celebrate the growth of a global industry while members of that same community are still in a jail cell?

I won’t call this a solid fail… but I will give them a “needs improvement”.

San Rafael ’71

Where were you San Raf? This brand has the most unique, authentic, and relevant story to tell during 420.  The leading theory on the birth of 420 comes from a group of students from the city of San Rafael, California who would meet up at 4:20 pm every day to enjoy some bud. As you can tell from the google trends above, people want to know the story and that story is San Rafael’s to tell.

Essentially, this brand was founded and inspired from that history of the 420 holiday, or “Where it all began” in 1971. Its’ in the brand’s DNA. I would expect this brand, out of all the Canadian cannabis brands, to own it with product, activations and unique educational events. Fingers crossed that they are a “crouching tiger” this year waiting to pull out a giant can of awesomeness in 2023. I’ve seen stellar things from the folks at Aurora and know that when they show up for their 420 birthday party… we’ll know

Overall Thoughts on 420 ’22

April 20th is always a big day for the cannabis industry, not just in Canada but worldwide. The main change for most retailers in Ontario was a significant shift to in-person sales versus online sales, since last year many regions were still in lockdown and unable to have customers come inside of the retail stores


According to Cova – the average store sales declined from last year, which is due primarily to the increase in the total number of retail stores available for customers to shop at. We also saw a lower average basket size, which comes from heavy discounts on products to entice more customers to come into our store versus others.

We saw a 57% increase in sales on April 20 compared to April 13 (a week prior – on the Wednesday). The products that were purchased stayed fairly consistent, but the average basket size increased, someone who normally buys 1 pre-roll would have bought 2 pre-rolls.

The winners from 4/20 this year are definitely the customers. Every store I saw was posting deals, similarly with the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) who also was putting many products on sale.

To run a successful cannabis brand, you must differentiate yourself from the competition rather than simply following them. You can learn from the market leaders, but to stand out, you'll need to take a different path.

Jackie McAskill, Controlled Substances Product and Marketing Leader

So there you have it. Our take on who best leveraged the 420 holiday. Overall, we hope the big takeaway from this post is that you can clearly see what a community can do for a brand and business when you deliver or exceed consumer expectations. No matter if you’re in Cannabis, Bev/Alcohol, Snack foods, or Formula 1 racing, a passionate community of customers who love your brand can help weather most storms if it’s led through authenticity. This can’t be any more clear in Cannabis where it’s incredibly difficult to introduce your brand and products to new consumers. A community can help spread the brand love for you and there is no better holiday to build and deepen that relationship in the cannabis biz than the 420 shopping holiday.

Article originally published on LinkedIn.

Last Updated on May 10, 2022 by ADCANN

Jordan Smith

Jordan Smith

Consumer Goods Executive | Product, Category and Marketing Leader | Innovation | Enterprise and Brand Strategy | Commercial Management