‘So pathetic’: police chased stoners around this city on 4/20

police on 4/20

The high holiday of 4/20 has become synonymous with lighting joints, thanking the herb for its bounty, and sharing favorite products with friends. Official events are now institutions, but before legalization, stoners simply gathered in various locations to spark up in unison on April 20th.

Sunset Beach in Vancouver, B.C. is one such place. In years past, vendors and revelers gathered at the beachside park and the Robson Square Vancouver Art Gallery to protest on behalf of pot. This often ended up with lots of public consumption, and, much to the dismay of the city, turf damage.

But this year, city efforts shut down the event and anyone who wanted to enjoy the public park.

“While we respect people’s right to protest, Vancouver parks are not suitable spaces for large, unsanctioned gatherings, such as these. Staff worked in collaboration with the VPD to ensure public safety,” city of Vancouver senior marketing specialist Megan Kaptein said to GreenState.

A Facebook event promised two stages, activist speakers, and more. However, people showed up to fenced-off grass, and police warned them away with fliers. Many moved the gathering at Robson Square before cops showed up there a bit later to break up the fun.

Former Sunset Beach 4/20 organizer and activist Dana Larsen shared that city and police efforts were “So pathetic.”

Some camps may argue that a hostile takeover was the only way to deter people from ruining the greens, but San Francisco’s Hippie Hill gathering says otherwise.

Stoners and spectators have gathered at Hippie Hill to light joints for generations, but on 4/20, people come from far and wide to blaze up. After the state legalized adult use, the city got involved, and event production ramped up. For years, the once free and open enormous park hang turned into a heavily produced concert featuring big names with food vendors and the like. It was almost like a mini festival in the name of cannabis.

This year, due to a lack of funds and the impact on the park, the city asked people not to go to Hippie Hill to smoke and directed them to the well-attended SF Weed Week. A press release also informed revelers that Volo Sports, an adult co-ed sports league, would take place on much of the greens.

Still, people showed up to Robin Williams Meadow in droves, the GreenState team and Beard Bros Pharms cofounder Jeff Levers among them.

“Even though the gathering on Hippie Hill was ‘unofficial’ this year, the good vibes were anything but,” Levers shared with GreenState. “It was a welcome ode to the past and gave it a welcoming feel for sure.”

The Volo event had much of the flat area roped off for different co-ed team sports. The actual hill was left empty behind a sandwich board reading “Spectators” – a hilarious and ingenious PR move to make stoners appear part of the league.

There was no beef between the two events. Early in the day, two jaunty dudes wearing Volo gear walked through people blazing bongs and lighting spoon pipes to let them know they were all welcome to join in on the adult sports. San Francisco police officers and park rangers also moved through the crowd, presumably detering robbery and fighting, nobody peacefully consuming weed was bothered. By 4:20 p.m., thousands had gathered.

Community support, like the Church of Ambrosia handing out water on a lovely, hot San Francisco day, kept people happy on the Hill. Water was also available via the Volo tent for $2, which went “to the kids.” The Parks department provided 11 toilets and three handwashing stations for Volo players, stoners, or whoever needed them.

The day was successful,” Daniel Montes, San Francisco Recreation and Parks manager, said to GreenState, “Hundreds of people came out for the permitted volleyball and kickball event at Robin Williams Meadow, while a small crowd gathered at Hippie Hill to celebrate 4/20. The day was peaceful and no different than any other sunny spring day at a San Francisco park. No citations and no medical calls.”

The GreenState team was there almost all day and witnessed people handing out free sunglasses, water, and a VW bus ice cream stand from San Francisco Hometown Creamery– but nothing negative among the 4/20 crowd.

Trash has been cited as a major issue on Hippie Hill following the past 4/20 gatherings. In 2016, organizers collected 11 tons in total following the event. Montes reports that this year was no more garbage-filled than any other day in the meadow.

It’s likely Hippie Hill 2024 will be labeled as a success across the board. This isn’t proof that these things will always go off without a hitch, but it is an indicator that Vancouver could use to chill out a skosh. San Francisco City may have artfully slid through the fence by bringing on Volo to do some of the work for them.

The event provided basic necessities to those who still showed up to “420 blaze it” while simultaneously blocking off lots of space so the precious turf was mostly protected. Vancouver took the completely opposite route, much to the dismay of the many weed-smoking citizens that live there.

When asked whether Sunset Beach 4/20 could rise again, Vancouver city representative Kaptein mentioned that it wasn’t impossible if permitting requirements and conditions established by the police department and BC Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch were met.

Same coast, two very different approaches– one went over much better than the other.

EDITORS NOTE: This article was updated to include information from SF Parks & Recreation regarded who provided the porta potties and the garbage impact from the day.

Cara Wietstock is senior content producer of GreenState.com and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.