The first-ever 4/20 with dispensaries legally selling pot in Golden Gate Park was the bomb, and Goapele wowed the crowd with a surprise set, though Berner seemingly did not realize it was 4:20 when the clock struck 4:20.
There had been previously only ever been two events in SF history where cannabis was legally sold outdoors by licensed, permitted dispensaries. Both of them were Outside Lands (2019 and 2021). But the most logical legal cannabis sales event is 4/20 at Hippie Hill, which returned Wednesday after a two-year COVID hiatus.
And while co-emcee Mike Tyson punching a guy on his flight from SFO Wednesday night will probably be the most enduring pop culture footnote to yesterday’s pot-smoking proceedings, the whole event went shockingly smoothly compared to previous iterations, and this 4/20 Hippie Hill really is coming of age as a respectable music festival.
But did headliner Berner not realize it was 4:20 when it was 4:20? Draw your own conclusions from the video above, taken at 4:20 p.m. He certainly didn’t do the customary 10, 9, 8…. countdown that has been done on that stage every year since they’ve had a proper stage. As you see in the video, the rapper, Cookies brand CEO, and general pied piper of the contemporary weed scene has to be told “Hey Berner, it’s 4:20,” some 20 seconds after 4:20 striking. Maybe it was scripted, maybe he got lost in performing. But did Berner not realize that the all-important hour had arrived?
Certainly no one was disappointed, as that was followed by a surprise, unannounced performance by Oakland R&B and trip-hop star Goapele, who did a three-song set with DJ Shortkut, much to the crowd’s unexpected delight.
And local hyphy legend Nump closed out the show with his cult-hit track “I Gott Grapes,” eliciting a delirious call-and-response.
Bay City News described the crowd size by saying “Roughly 20,000 people were expected to attend,” and having walked the place a few hours, that seemed correct. Hippie Hill itself was not as crowded as 2019, when attendance was estimated at 19,000, but this year’s event took up far more official space and had a larger footprint, spreading food trucks and dispensary booths throughout the soccer fields area opposite Robin Williams Meadow.
Yes, dispensary booths, baby! Ring me up! The “dispensary row” was referred to as a “farmers market” (heh), though otherwise, you had no problem finding a street dealer selling weed illegally elsewhere in the park, and bellowing out their discount prices.
Lines and wait times were inconsistent at each dispensary booth (delivery services were represented too), with some booths absolutely mobbed, and others you could just walk right up and buy cannabis with no wait at all.
But logistically, there were no hiccups.
"We made history with the first legal sales at Hippie Hill in Robin Williams Meadow at Golden Gate Park," says David Hua, founder and CEO of Meadow, the point-of-sale system used Wednesday. "It's a huge accomplishment that required a superhero level of ability, planning, and execution from the entire spectrum of stakeholders."
"Overall, we saw an incredible display of how legal sales can - and should - run at events of this scale," Hua tells SFist. "Transactions ran smoothly all day, with steady streams of customers and short wait times in line. No curveballs. No last-minute fire drills. Retailers followed state, local, park, and event regulations to ensure compliance throughout the event, from load-in to load-out. Overall sales were very strong."
And ironically, the cannabis “farmers' market” was the only place you were not allowed to smoke your weed! (Believe me, I tried.) They essentially allowed the whole park to be a legal consumption area, and only prohibited smoking in the gated cannabis sales area.
Yes, former pro boxer, convicted rapist, aspiring comic actor, and guy who allegedly beat the shit out of someone on the flight home Wednesday night Mike Tyson did have a brand booth there. Tyson has lately put his name on a line of buds and edibles — including the ear-shaped Mike Bites gummies, commemorating the time in 1997 when Tyson bit a chunk of Evander Holyfield's ear off during a fight.
Indeed, he was blazing up an enormous fattie to entertain the gathered picture-snapping onlookers. Tyson was listed as a co-emcee, though did very little onstage in that regard. And it is, shall we say, uncertain that he will be asked back next year.
The 4/20 Golden Gate Park festival is now far more branded than even Outside Lands, there were cannabis logos everywhere you looked. That’s out of necessity. This remains a free festival, and they’ve got to pay for all of the security, permitting, fencing and the rest somehow, so they’re doing whatever it takes to make this thing financially feasible.
And yes, this lovely area is a “brand activation” for some fucking weed company, but that’s a sweet little chill area they built, and anyone could sit on the grassy chairs for free.
And some of this schwag was pretty fucking sweet! Those Mac Dre thingies were being handed out for free.
They did check IDs to get into the gated area and allowed only 21 and over, though security did not check proof of vaccination, which Mayor Breed had said earlier this week that they were going to do.
We saw zero SFPD officers inside the gated area, and a few park rangers here and there. The vast majority of security were private, hired security guards. As such, we have not seen any arrest reports yet.
As usual, traffic was supremely snarled on Haight Street and Stanyan Street after the event, though it seemed contained to the areas adjacent to the park. The unpermitted vending was pretty rampant on Haight Street between Shrader and Stanyan, where bongs, booze, and Jell-O shots were being sold in the open. But many real Haight Street businesses were doing gangbusters business with the crowds in the neighborhood, and you better believe the pizza slice shops had lines around the block.
Still, this was a superbly managed event. There was very little alcohol to be seen, and they nailed the happy, peaceful stoner vibe. This thing is now run by an event company called Sounds Bazaar, who do a million thankless tasks behind the scenes so the event runs smoothly. And it did.
Sure, people will be talking about Mike Tyson punching a guy. They may be talking about whether Berner didn’t realize it was 4:20, they may be talking about Goapele’s dazzling surprise set. But people are not talking about chronic bad behavior by 4/20 attendees, they’re talking about what the famous people and the talent did. So in that sense, 4/20 at Hippie Hill is truly budding into something like a mature music festival. An extra-stoned, extra-dank music festival.
This post has been updated with comment from point-of-sales platform Meadow.
Images: Joe Kukura, SFist