S.F. Officials Now Have An Excuse to Cancel 4/20 Fun, but Will They?
Update 1:24 p.m: Supervisor London Breed talked to ABC News, saying she would like to ban the pot-smoking event at Hippie Hill because of all the "irresponsible behavior."
Gil Riego Jr
"Since marijuana is illegal, I don't think there's anything that can be done other than making sure there's enforcement to stop the event from happening altogether," Breed said.
Original story 11:12 a.m.: If you live in San Francisco, there are certain places in San Francisco you simply will not go. North Beach on a Saturday night, Candlestick Park when the 49ers are playing the Raiders (though that one's taken care of), and now add to the list the eastern end of Golden Gate Park on 4/20.
We've heard "horror" stories of the ravages who descended on Haight-Ashbury and Sharon Meadow where some 10,000 marijuana-minded celebrants -- 120 parking tickets, a fight documented on YouTube, and a mind-boggling, yet dubiously quantified "10,000 pounds" of trash -- have made headlines nationwide. The Chronicle's recap of the carnage of paper plates was picked up by The Drudge Report, and certain neighbors are calling on the city to do something about all these stoners!
Remember what San Francisco did to the Halloween in The Castro? Shut it down.
See Also: Cops Confiscate 2-Pound Joint
But that seems unlikely, if not entirely impossible when it comes to the city's 4/20 events.
For those living on the moon, 4/20 is Marin County-bred slang for marijuana use, and the term has come to mean both 20 minutes past 4 p.m. (or a.m., for those on the night shift) and the 20th day of April as the pentultimate times to get high.
Like Halloween in the Castro, the gathering of the tribes in Golden Gate Park is an unpermitted, unofficial event. In other words, nobody pays a permit fee or rents out porta-potties -- people just know to show up. And they do.
So how do you shut down something that's never really officially "started?" Cops. Lots and lots of cops. An unpermitted event is shut down only with a heavy police presence accompanying a public information campaign. The Castro was crawling with cops on subsequent Halloweens, which served as an effective deterrent to any costumed revelers defying the ban.
But unlike Halloween in the Castro, nobody has ever gotten shot at 4/20 in Golden Gate Park. That event, which drew hundreds of thousands of people -- less folks than 4/20 by a factor of 10 -- is also primarily alcohol-fueled. That does make a difference in behavior, as any honest cop, judge, or person with working perceptive abilities will tell you.
The police, in fact, hadn't even heard of the fights until the YouTube videos made the rounds. According to Rec and Park staffers, there were a grand total of two incidents of note -- one ticket for public urination and another for an open container. If that's the best the mob can do on 4/20, perhaps it's time we replaced all major events with a pot party.
It seems far-fetched that a phalanx of riot-clad officers would cordon-off Sharon Meadow, if for no other reason than nobody will want to pay for that kind of response. But if they did, there's always Speedway Meadow -- or the Polo Field, or the Beach Chalet soccer fields. In other words, the party could easily move on down the park.
Or the crowds may just start staying away. Initially, 4/20 was as much a defiant act as it was a party, and with acceptance of legalization at an all-time peak, marijuana use isn't the taboo-busting, authority-bucking culture statement it once was. And that's a good thing. People may realize it's just as fun to stay home and burn one down -- or perhaps head to a city where it is a defiant act, like Bakersfield.