How to do 4/20 right in Golden Gate Park

April 20 falls on a Monday this year, which means Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park — that slight rise in Sharon Meadow just past Alvord Lake — will be less crowded than it was the last three years, when 4/20 went long weekend on us and colossal crowds jammed the area on a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

This could be the second-to-last 4/20 in a California where cannabis is prohibited. As marijuana smoking ceases to be a radical act and 4/20 becomes pure party, we present a basic guide to 4/20 etiquette.

Trying to squeeze onto Hippie Hill at 3:45 p.m. is the equivalent of “making it” to your best friend’s wedding just in time to catch the tail end of the vows. Poor showing, friend, and it just won’t work.

This is even more important if you insist — foolishly — on driving to the park for the event. Parking will be a Sisyphean task, a trial of Hercules, a classical clusterfuck. Remember: Muni is always more fun stoned. Take advantage.

Whatever you’re smoking, bring an adequate supply. Don’t rely on buying any at the park — while sellers will no doubt be out in force, undercover police will be as well. You almost certainly won’t get cited for smoking, but you could absolutely get popped for illegal sales. That’s a felony you don’t need.

Occasions like today are when you realize that people you’d never exchange two words with out in the real world are your soul brothers and sisters. You have something in common: you enjoy cannabis. That’s a good icebreaker. Bring extra to share, pass it around.

Citations were indeed handed out by Park Patrol last year, for selling — and not selling marijuana. About ten citations were handed out for “barbecuing, vending without a permit, and amplified sound.” By all means go ahead and hawk t-shirts or run your hamburger stand hustle — but be aware that it’s illegal to sell anything without a permit. Park Patrol will also give you a hard time if you try to set up a pop-up tent or an awning.

Police will be out in force over the weekend, looking for one drug: alcohol. Last year, SFPD’s dirt bike-equipped Honda unit posted up by the tunnel near Alvord Lake, rifling through coolers and stopping anyone with excessive amounts of glass bottles. If you must obey your thirst, bring a few cans of beer or a paper carton of wine — Bandit FTW — but don’t act like this is a cornhole tournament in the Marina. Alcohol is how fights start. Feel the love and keep it irie. And for Gaia’s sake, don’t leave empties in the park.

Potheads are lazy. Potheads are filthy. Are you tired of being a cliche yet? Last year’s 4/20 celebration left a veritable ton of trash strewn over Hippie Hill. While volunteer cleanup crews from medical dispensaries like Green Cross will be out here this year cleaning up, there’s no reason to act like a douchey Fort Mason bro or a mindless Dolores Park techie drone. Be a good citizen. That’ll blow haters’ minds.

4/20 FACTS

Is it illegal to smoke cannabis in Golden Gate Park, even if I have a medical recommendation?

TRUE FACT: The city’s Parks Code forbids smoking of anything in parks, be it a banana peel, your tax forms, or high-grade Humboldt. The penalty is a citation from the city. Will you get busted? Probably not on an average Sunday at the drum circle, and even less likely on 4/20. Still, it’s good to know.

Is it illegal to smoke cannabis at Ocean Beach and in the Presidio?

SUPER TRUE: Ocean Beach is in San Francisco — but it’s also property of the government of the United States, which does not recognize state medical marijuana laws. Feel free to smoke and vape to your heart’s content out in the dunes or near the Golden Gate Bridge, but be vigilant — and prepare yourself for the consequences, which can be steep indeed.

4/20 is codified in state law.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DECLARE IT SO: Senate Bill 420, which authorizes the right of medical cannabis patients to gather collectively to cultivate medicine — that is, to sell it to you in storefront dispensary — passed the state Legislature and was signed into law in 2003 by then-Gov. Gray Davis, shortly before his term in Sacramento was terminated by the recall election that year.

How did stoner culture end up in the hallowed halls of government? This, for now, is a mystery: There’s a theory that a cheeky staffer for state Sen. Mark Leno made cannabis law coincide with the counterculture, but nobody will say.

Tired of the park? Don’t go there.

There’s a whole wide world out there beyond the mess of people from all over the state stuffing themselves into a few blocks of the Haight Ashbury and the park. You are free to broaden your horizons — and to bring your friends with you as well. Here are some friendly suggestions.

Visit your favorite dispensary to take advantage of the inevitable 4/20 specials. Check our web site at www.sfevergreen.com to find out more as various dispensaries’ specials are announced.
You’ll be able to find us, as well as many other like-minded pot partygoers, at the Cow Palace for the HempCon Cup — if for no other reason to catch local legend Too $hort, Vallejo native Baby Bash, and grillmaster extraordinaire Paul Wall at the Saturday night concert. Tickets and info: www.hempcon.com.

As of press time, there isn’t much else going on in the Bay Area on April 20 itself. Major League Baseball’s most cannabis-friendly ballpark will be quiet, with the Oakland Athletics on the road in Anaheim. The Giants are in town, but mysteriously have the night off. Look for Tim Lincecum in disguise somewhere near the Sharon Arts Studio.

Bill Graham Civic Auditorium is scheduled to be dark (no Wiz Khalifia show this year, tear). There is an act in town, though, and it’s a local favorite: alt-metal act Faith No More will play its second show of the weekend. The 4/19 show at the Warfield is sold out; maybe you’ll have better luck on 4/20 itself. www.thewarfieldtheatre.com.


Put down the ultimate disc, take a break from the Pidgeon Point break, and kick your birkenstocks on over to Porter Meadow to party like a real banana slug. The regents of the University of California have taken measures in recent years to stamp out this massive smoke-out — all without success. Not necessarily for the 30-and-over crowd, but for serious discussions about Plato with your Purple Kush, this is the place to be.

This is where it all began. To kick it real old school, go to the place of possibly the first “organized” 420 event in the United States. Cannabis advocates first started gathering here in the late 1980s, thanks in part to journalist Steven Hager’s influence. Hager was the first journalist to interview the Waldos — the now-middle aged Marin County men who are now credited with introducing “420” into the stoner lexicon — and also takes credit for organizing the first 420 celebrations outside of Marin County.

If you trek out here, this will be a much, much more mellower scene. Maybe just like Gaia intended. We hear the Bolinas Ridge Trail is nice at sunset…

Photo credit: Jack Rikess