SF’s ‘Hippie Hill’ 420: Best City-Backed Pot Party Ever
Only 16 miles south of 420’s birthplace at San Rafael High School in Marin County, the city of San Francisco hosted the greatest civic sesh California has seen in the age of legalization to celebrate the date that brings the decades-old catchphrase to life.
The cloud of mystery around what the festivities would look like this year at San Francisco’s “Hippie Hill” in Golden Gate Park lifted quickly. Not only was this the first installment of the event with cannabis legalized for adult-use in California (we’re working on the regulated part), but also the first time it occurred with quasi-approval from city officials.
And by that, we mean the city didn’t actually approve.
According to officials, it was simply a matter of responsibility. Clearly, they couldn’t condone a municipal Schedule I drug party, but they did want to reduce the harms associated with the massive event on the park — and the negative impact on the city’s PR machine.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said there had even been discussions on how to end the event as a whole, but the city didn’t want to take the risk of it splintering to even more events.
This led to a “do the best” mentality; in accepting they couldn’t stop things it the allowed them to see how they could do the most good. They decided permitting someone else to take on the task made the most sense.
While justifying the decision to even issue the permit, in late March the mayor famously compared it to cycling event Critical Mass and pillow fights at Justin Herman Plaza, two other events that have found accommodation by the city in past years.
When the news of the permit first hit the scene, it was met with both intrigue and ire. Many were quick to ponder what it would possibly look like: cities like Boston in the past had spent numerous taxpayer dollars funding efforts to shut down similar events, and here was San Francisco creating a permit for the process, as opposed to arguing in court whether folks had the right to one.
Some old school heads were scared, for lack of a better term — “The Man” was getting involved — but the biggest strike against the festivities was the lack of glass.
In the end, many of these concerns didn’t even last as long as the collective smoke cloud hovering over the hill at 4:20 p.m.
Haight Street businesses and a few dispensaries put up $100,000 to corral the event with the permit and city’s blessing. SF Rapper/Cookies mogul Berner led an ensemble that included the Cookie Fam, Hemp2o and The Green Door in addressing the city’s concerns and still throwing the rager.
There were three main points of infrastructure this year, in addition to extra parks staff and EMTs; a fenced perimeter to keep the event contained, IDs being checked at the entrance and proper waste management facilitation. All three went off without a hitch.
The fenced perimeter was fine and there was room to spare inside, with the crowd using slightly less than half the space that had been allotted. The entrance could have been a bit closer to public transit, as it was positioned at the opposite end of the park from San Francisco’s municipal light rail network. The entrance itself wasn’t too bad, even with the ID check process going on, and around 3 p.m. the wait to enter was less than 10 minutes.
The trash situation was a major upgrade from years past. One of the major problems of yesteryear was the combination of unregulated vending and a lack of services being provided by the hands-of city, turning what trash receptacles the park did have into pyramids of paper plates, blunt wrappers and napkins by 2:30 p.m. — the parks staff understandably had trouble keeping up.
This year’s ambiance of regulation thinned the heard of vendors considerably and the addition of numerous trash, compost and recycling stations quickly ended any threat of the repetition of past eyesores.
As for the party itself, well it was simply bangin’. The main stage was like a backstop across the south side of the park’s grassy meadow, with three vendor booths flanking it on either side. The tunes were on point all day, and included Bay Area legends like Jah Warrior Shelter.
The no glass rule was not enforced. Spoons, rigs and bongs were within sight pretty much anywhere you were chilling — nobody died.
All in all, Hippie Hill 2017 was the greatest municipal sesh ever. Well done San Francisco, well done.
TELL US, have you ever been to Hippie Hill on 420? How was it?