SAN FRANCISCO — They came from far and wide, on foot and in wheelchairs Thursday to the much-anticipated Bay Area event for cannabis-lovers, the first “4/20” gathering on Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park since California legalized recreational marijuana in November.
Things got off to a slow start, no doubt in part because of new security rules that weren’t in effect before. This year, for the first time, a group of merchants that had staged the Haight Street Fair and other events got together and raised $100,000 to provide security, set up fencing, arrange portable toilets, approve food vendors and have medical personnel on standby. There were sponsors, which included High Times, and live entertainment.
Everyone had to go through a backpack check at the entrance, leading to long lines, but those queued up didn’t seem to mind. They passed the time by firing up joints, which is what they came for.
No food or bottles were allowed in, but security clearly was not looking for pot or paraphernalia.
Just inside but the gates people were hawking blunts — $5 for fat brown ones and $2 for skinny white ones.
Brian Lucy, 55, of San Francisco, carried a plastic bag filled with Ziploc bags bursting with pot buds, which he handed out to people willing to make a “donation.” Lucy, a Hippie Hill 4/20 veteran, said he was disturbed by the commercialization of the event. He pointed out that this is the first time there have been food vendors and other concessions. In the past, people were able to bring in their own food.
“I think it’s terrible, all these people are trying to capitalize on a simple holiday that used to be for the people,” he said. “I have really mixed emotions about the whole thing, frankly.”
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The sunny, mild weather contributed to the mellow mood of an event that attendees said had a great community vibe. A mild breeze carried visible clouds of pot smoke throughout the day. Young and not so young rolled joints and cut up fat buds with scissors in plain view of event security. They toked on bongs, gobbled up pot brownies, and dozed contentedly on the grass next to their pooches.
In front of a food truck selling hot links and garlic fries, Jon Walker was offering 4-ounce bottles of grape-flavored, pure THC oil for $25, a discount from the $40 retail price, he said.
“It comes in 4-ounce bottles, but all you need is an ounce to do the trick,” said Walker, 24 from Sacramento.
Michele Rebelle sat on a blanket displaying her wares, which included Sativa-strained pot brownies and root beer hard candies. A group of young men approached and asked her the price and got some $5 edibles.
“Eat half and then drink some water,” the 62-year-old San Francisco resident advised. “Whatever you do, do not eat the whole thing. I’m a grandmother, you listen to me.”
Nearby, Erich Torres, 18, from Milipitas, inhaled from a monster bong. It was his first trip to Hippie Hill for 4/20. He came with his cousins, also Hippie Hill first-timers.
“I had only seen it in pictures before,” he said, coughing hard after a deep toke. “It’s pretty amazing, and everyone is really nice.”
People spotted T-shirts with images of Bob Marley and Tupac Shakur. Kathy and Tommie, a Bay Point couple who didn’t want their last names used, wore matching shirts featuring a cannabis plant and the words “Best” on one and “Buds” on the other.
One man called out asking whether anyone had extra rolling papers, and someone nearby promptly obliged.
The vote to legalize pot came in last November’s election, 20 years after state voters also legalized the use of medical marijuana. So far, seven other states have legalized cannabis for recreational use: Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Massachusetts and Nevada.
Kelsey Cambridge spent two hours on a bus and BART to get to the event from Vallejo.
“I’m going to smoke with my friends, but I don’t think legalization makes much of a difference because I’ve been smoking for four years,” said Cambridge, 19, who had just recently gotten her medical marijuana card in Los Angeles.
As the day wore on, the grassy meadow filled up. There were several thousands attendees, but no official crowd estimate was available.
Tee Haywood arrived with his folding chair and his dog Red Box, a massive 120-plus pound American Staffordshire Terrier. It was his first time at the event. Nearby, a group lounged on the grass playing the party game Cards Against Humanity.
“Everybody is real chill,” said Haywood, 29, from Dixon. “And it’s smoke everywhere.”