The lyrics from Simon & Garfunkel’s “A Hazy Shade of Winter” appeared to ring true by all accounts at the highly popular 4/20 celebration in Golden Gate Park on Sunday as warm weather, music, food, pets and, of course, marijuana, amplified the event for thousands of revelers.
Police and city officials laid down the law last week, urging park visitors to pick up their trash and remain civil, or the event might be shut down for goo.d As of Sunday evening, between eight and 10 people attending the event had been arrested -- including a person with a gun near the Golden Gate Carousel -- and were facing felony charges, Sgt. Danielle Newman said, although she did not disclose the nature of the arrests. Police had received a call about shots fired, but they found no such evidence and no injuries were reported, Newman said.
One officer on duty at the park said the unofficial, annual event was without major incident early on.
“Last year at this time we had lots of fights and alcohol-related incidents,” Officer Jimmy Lewis said.
Despite the fact that many people — Lewis estimated one in three — in the park’s “Hippie Hill” area were smoking marijuana or drinking alcohol, officers hadn’t planned to crack down on the illegal activity “unless it’s flagrantly offensive or contributing to a public safety issue,” Lewis said.
Jeffrey Freeman, 34, was standing atop Hippie Hill at exactly 4:20 p.m. – the symbolic smoking celebration time - when music blared, the crowd cheered and even more marijuana smoke clouded the air.
“It was almost like a New Year’s countdown,” Freeman said. “Everybody was already smoking but they lit another one. It’s pretty crazy. I didn’t realize it would be this many people.”
Not only people but pets clogged the park as well. Hundreds of dogs romped with their owners, and one attendee, Mellody Gannon, 56, even brought her White Cheeked Conure bird, Hugz.
Gannon, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, said she uses marijuana medicinally and believes the drug should be universally legal.
Despite being permitted only for medical purposes in California, marijuana was hardly difficult to come by at the local event. Dozens, if not hundreds, of people were selling or giving away marijuana in every possible form, including edibles.
One tent proudly handed out cannabis cookies, the third time advocates provided the “charity service” at The City’s 4/20 event.
Natalie, one of the members of the group, declined to give her last name but said the group was making a point to pick up their trash and noticed more people doing so as well this year.
She said the only issue the group encountered was that city officials initially tried to prevent attendees from setting up their tents in the morning, before backing off.
Connie Chan, a spokeswoman for the Recreation and Park Department, couldn’t confirm that instance but said no structures, including tents, are allowed in the park without a permit. That rule appeared to be unenforced by the afternoon.
She said city officials were working together Sunday to keep potential problems to a minimum.
“Ultimately what we want is people to come out and enjoy the park peacefully,” Chan said.