Police, officials warn of 4/20 crackdown 

click to enlarge Supervisor London Breed
  • Mike Koozmin/the S.F. Examiner
  • Supervisor London Breed is joined by Police Chief Greg Suhr, Juvenile Probation Department Chief Allen Nance, and Recreation and Parks Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg at a press conference outlining efforts to address issues which may arise from un-permitted gatherings and events for the 4/20 celebrations anticipated on Sunday.

The unofficial annual 4/20 marijuana smoking party in Golden Gate Park is on notice from San Francisco police and elected officials: It's time to behave or face consequences.

Supervisor London Breed and irked residents of the Haight, which borders Golden Gate Park, have vowed to avoid a repeat of last year's scene.

That scene involved a crowd of 15,000 revelers, attracted to the park by the warm weather and April 20 falling on a Saturday, leaving 5 tons of trash on Sharon Meadow and Hippie Hill before staggering through the neighborhood back toward downtown.

It took Recreation and Park Department crews 12 hours and $15,000 worth of overtime to clean up the mess, according to agency General Manager Phil Ginsburg. Businesses on Haight Street shut their doors to avoid dealing with the mob, and traffic was brought to a near-standstill.

This year, 4/20 -- the world's unofficial pot-smoking holiday -- is again on a weekend, this time on Sunday, with bright and balmy weather expected. And it's not the only event going on in the park: The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are holding their annual Easter Sunday Hunky Jesus pageant in Hellman Hollow.

"If everybody would just be cool, then it's cool," Police Chief Greg Suhr said of the unofficial, unpermitted and unsanctioned 4/20 event. "As soon as you start affecting everybody else, you're gonna bring about the end of something that's at that tipping point."

Extra uniformed and plainclothes police will be roaming the area near the Sharon Arts Studio where cannabis consumers congregate, Suhr said Wednesday.

Cops will be on the lookout for open containers of alcohol and people hawking T-shirts and other goods without permits. They will also bust people for selling marijuana, which is a felony.

Is all this a buzz kill? If so, "That's what we do," the chief said.

Other unofficial parties in San Francisco, like Halloween in the Castro, have been shut down following spates of violence and unruly behavior.

And restrictions on alcohol consumption, costumes and floats have been leveled on the Bay to Breakers footrace, which also uses Golden Gate Park and has had its share of issues. The event attracts many more people, some of whom use it as an excuse to drink heavily.

But despite the crowds and garbage, last year's 4/20 was relatively peaceful.

Officers responded to reports of one fight -- video of which ended up on YouTube -- and police arrested eight people for suspected marijuana sales, said Capt. Greg Corrales, who commands the nearby Park Police Station. No citations were issued for marijuana possession.

In theory, every 4/20 reveler is breaking the law. Under The City's strict anti-smoking rules, it's illegal to smoke anything in parks. Violators are subject to a citation and fine.

And marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

However, no citations for smoking in the park were issued last year, police and park officials said. To do so would be a near-impossible task considering the number of attendees.

"It's about what you can do and what you can do reasonably," Suhr said.

One change planned for this year in response to the crowds is running extra Muni buses. Beginning at approximately 5 p.m., according to Breed's office, extra buses will be deployed to take people east toward downtown. Last year, some 4/20 partiers reportedly left trash and discarded beer bottles as far away from Golden Gate Park as Hayes Valley because Muni service was insufficient.

"We want people to come to San Francisco and we want them to enjoy San Francisco," Breed said. "But we want them to respect San Francisco."

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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