An estimated 19,000 stoners got too high to cause trouble, as a surprisingly peaceful 4/20 registered just seven arrests amidst the Hippie Hill high jinks seen in pictures and video below.
We advised sensible people to steer clear of the Haight if they wanted no part of the gigantic, first-ever-on-a-Saturday 4/20 of the legal weed era, and the pothead masses this would doubtless attract. But SFist has long delighted in the antics of San Francisco’s ‘Stoner New Year’ celebration, now one of the largest marijuana parties in the country. And as always, we have video of the high holy moment of 4:20 p.m. when an entire park full of people blazes up.
NBC Bay Area reports there were only seven arrests, a surprising low total for an event with so much illegal activity.
And behold the spotless condition of that very same hill Sunday morning! Hippie Hill on 4/20 had a reputation after 22,000 pounds of trash littered the park in 2016, but the above photo shows the scene at 8:50 a.m. Sunday. A few remaining contractors were still doing spot work, but the all-hands endeavor by park personnel and sponsoring dispensaries left a pretty pristine landscape.
This party could well have gone badly, as record crowds were expected to bring Saturday smoke-out chaos. (Attendance actually appears a shade below last year’s 20,000.) But there were only two people requiring hospitalization according to ABC 7, and the event’s mellow vibe was a real testament to the efforts of Rec and Parks, SFPD, and the neighborhood’s supervisor Vallie Brown. We did not see the fistfights or blatant alcohol vending of previous years’ celebrations, but still, giant sacks of weed were sold and smoked openly, all day, with abandon.
Can you take a wild guess what this fellow has for sale? Vendors were openly selling ounces in giant zip loc bags, with only occasional pushback from the rare SFPD foot patrol. Some pot dealers were selling illegal weed in fully California compliant childproof packaging — which I have definitely have never seen happen in Golden Gate Park.
The footlong blunt seemed to emerge as this year’s de rigeur 4/20 smokable item in the endless parade of pot smoking.
We should remind you that despite the new recreational marijuana laws, smoking and selling weed in a public park remains completely illegal. The very hands-off approach of law enforcement and Rec and Parks has drawn plenty of criticism in years past, but the tactic proved effective Saturday. Most significantly, organizers successfully eliminated alcohol vending, and the near complete lack of booze a fostered a happy, chill crowd content with their mass cannabis consumption.
Fences contained the larger area we now call Robin Williams Meadow, security ID’d everyone for age compliance and checked hard for alcohol. They even made people dump their jugs of water (which seems like a terrible idea when they’re about to eat edibles and smoke weed and sit in the sun all day?). But ample Porta-potties, trash, recycling, and compost generously dotted the meadow.
There were about about ten food trucks, but a clever vendor could still sneak in snacks to sell without using the now-banned folding table.
Dispensaries were very visibly on hand, but they were not allowed to sell their pot. Instead they handed out stickers, sold $1 lighters, and hawked their branded ball caps, t-shirts, and hoodies to customers who were actively blazing joints whilst shopping.
Haight Street traffic was a little touch-and-go after festivities commenced and the mobs moved on, but nothing like the snarls of previous years. While there are no dispensaries in the Upper Haight, some weed-adjacent brand apparel shops still had long lines requiring stanchions, and served food to their nibble-hungry fans.
Organizers should congratulate themselves on a very successful 4/20 iteration, but creeping commercialism will dictate new rules for next year’s party. Legitimate pot sales by licensed vendors are slated to be allowed, which changes the entire enforcement landscape of this event. While the Leap Year moves 4/20 to a Monday in 2020, which presumably will put a dent in the crowds, it's still hazy how this reformed outlaw pot holiday will manage its growth.