Editor’s note: The 2020 5o420 Fest has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marijuana may not be legal in Louisiana, but that won’t stop organizers of the 5o420 Festival from gathering a crowd to “celebrate cannabis culture in New Orleans” on April 20 in Louis Armstrong Park.
What To Expect At The Fest
The festival, now in its second year, is slated to feature musical performances by artists including New Orleans bounce legend Ricky B, the Marigny Street Brass Band, funk-rock band Gris Gris Grin and the local ‘90s tribute band the Kurt Loders. Ricky B is scheduled to take the stage around 4:20 p.m., in tribute to the date that’s become a kind of unofficial holiday for fans of cannabis and advocates for its legalization.
“We try to cater to all musical types, and we’re definitely a festival that interests all types, from the baby boomers to millennials,” said Rebecca Wright, who founded the festival and the Louisiana Cannabis Coalition. “We really try to have a little bit of something for everyone.”
What To Know Before You Go
The festival offers free admission, although optional $25 VIP passes will give attendees access to an area offering snacks —“a munchie table, if you will,” Wright said — phone chargers and even massage therapy. All attendees will be able to take part in yoga and Zumba sessions and mix with representatives from more than a dozen nonprofits, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Bike Easy.
“We’re also trying to bring together that nonprofit aspect and a sense of community so that people can really walk away with a sense of being involved in something bigger,” said Wright.
Plenty of food will also be available for sale, including macaroni and cheese, nachos, wings, barbecue and various vegan options.
In addition to musical entertainment, there will be speeches by attorneys, activists and others involved in advocating for marijuana policy reform in Louisiana. As a nonprofit, the Cannabis Coalition can’t endorse specific laws or candidates, Wright explains, though she says it’s clear there’s interest in the drug from voters and from would-be marijuana entrepreneurs. Marijuana is currently only legal in Louisiana for medical purposes for a specific list of conditions, and it’s only available through a handful of dispensaries in specific forms, not including raw leaves or anything intended for smoking.
“I do think in the next two to three years, we’ll see some major changes, because the voters are not interested in hearing any excuses anymore at this point,” says Wright.
The Legalese & Business Of Marijuana
In general, possession of the drug in Louisiana is a criminal offense, although under city law, police in New Orleans often issue tickets rather than make arrests when they catch people with small amounts of the drug.
Wright, who has lived in Colorado since leaving Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina, said she’s seen the cannabis industry thrive in that state since the substance became legal there and gotten used to the availability of the drug. While marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the federal government has taken a mostly hands-off approach in states that have legalized the drug for recreational or medicinal purposes.
“I just want to come home and visit my mom and have the same medical options that I have in other places,” she said.
Wright modeled the 5o420 Festival after Denver’s annual 420 Rally, she said. That annual event has evolved into a major festival, said to be the largest celebration of the 4/20 holiday in the world.
“It’s not every day that a new billion-dollar industry comes out of nowhere,” she said. “To see with my own eyes what changes can happen in a community, it’s just really been fascinating.”
No, Marijuana Is Not Available At The Fest — But CBD Is OK.
Thanks to its current illegal status, one thing that naturally won’t be available to buy at the festival will be marijuana itself. But there will be vendors selling cannabidiol, or CBD, products. That substance can be extracted from legal-to-grow hemp plants, which don’t contain THC, the ingredient that makes marijuana users high, and it’s said to help with relaxation and a variety of medical conditions.
“A lot of people don’t realize there are legit CBD companies,” Wright said.