The 4/20 bacchanalia has officially transformed from outlaw menace to a squeaky-clean tourist attraction, as SF Travel and the Chamber of Commerce have organized a high-end, “multi-day celebration tied to 420.”
If you’d have told me five years ago that the suit-and-tie captains of industry at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce would be helping organize the notorious annual 4/20 shenanigans, I’d have asked what you were smoking.
The high holy stoner holiday used to have a chronic reputation for choking up Hippie Hill with rampant unpermitted alcohol vending, drug dealing galore, a litany of drunken fistfights, and people leaving behind 22,000 pounds of trash. (Consider the words of now-Mayor London Breed in 2013: “I have serious concerns about the appropriateness of the event. I spent the last decade working with children, many of whom come from families scarred by drug abuse. I am not comfortable with an event that encourages such rampant drug use by adults and minors alike.”)
But in a twist that shows the evolution of 4/20 and the legal cannabis industry, and how permitting the event in 2017 added much-needed structure and made it a viable tourist attraction, the SF Travel Association and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce have announced a nine-day roster of 4/20 attractions and events called Evergreen San Francisco. Tied around the 4/20 Hippie Hill celebration that is back on for 2022, this week-plus festival purports to “celebrate the city's diverse cannabis lounges and dispensaries and showcase iconic attractions, foodie spots, nature hikes, immersive art, and experiences throughout the city.”
A cannabis culture celebration is coming to the City from April 16th-24th: Evergreen San Francisco.— San Francisco Chamber of Commerce (@SF_Chamber) March 28, 2022
🌐 Visit the official website for more information: https://t.co/I2JQ2Y9lmu
📰 Read the article here: https://t.co/pEXqvgKdMr, @KTVU pic.twitter.com/l7JtqqnYt2
"The cannabis industry is as iconic to San Francisco as the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, and Fisherman's Wharf," SF Chamber of Commerce executive director Rodney Fong said in a press release. "Evergreen San Francisco speaks to cannabis's place in our economy and history."
The nine-day lineup, perhaps unsurprisingly, reads like a pot-smoker’s festival planned by people who don’t smoke pot. There's a miniature bluegrass festival, a panel discussion at Manny’s, a history talk at the library, a book signing, a scavenger hunt, and a Big Lebowski screening. The 4/20 Hippie Hill celebration is listed as an official event on the festival’s website, though it does not appear the Chamber of Commerce or the SF Travel Association are sponsors of that event.
But clearly 4/20 now has friends in high places. Evergreen San Francisco is sponsored by more than the Chamber of Commerce and Travel SF, it’s a joint effort with the San Francisco Cannabis Retailers Alliance, the Fisherman's Wharf Community Benefit District (???), and the San Francisco Cannabis Equity Group.
This is the latest sign of how 4/20 has turned over a new leaf in the legal marijuana era. I’ve been hitting these 4/20 events for years, and the sea change happened when they removed alcohol from the equation, which coincided with the event getting permitted. None of the Evergreen San Francisco events really involve any alcohol. Even on Hippie Hill, when you take away the booze, people just get too high and blissed out to cause any trouble. And the Hippie Hill 4/20 party has not only cleaned up its act, it’s learned to clean up the park afterward too.
Which makes 4/20 now a palatable event to market to the broader tourism sector (though the festival’s Hotels section could use some work). There is surely pent-up demand for a big stoner 4/20 blowout after two years of cancellations. The renewed 2022 4/20 will likely bring in visitors from the Bay Area and beyond, and even if they’re all total potheads, their money is still green.
Image: Joe Kukura, SFist