Pot Lovers Flock to San Francisco for Annual 4/20 Smokeout - NBC Bay Area
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Pot Lovers Flock to San Francisco for Annual 4/20 Smokeout

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    Dozens of workers will be out early Thursday after working late to clean up Hippie Hill after 8,000 people attended a 4/20 party at Golden Gate Park. Terry McSweeney reports. (Published Wednesday, April 20, 2016)

    More than 8,000 people flocked to Golden Gate Park on Wednesday, or 4/20, as the San Francisco’s weed-loving community call it, to celebrate being outside on the grass and the sweet smells (and effects) of cannabis.

    The exact spot in the park? Hippie Hill, of course. And the theme? A giant smoke-out.

    Before lunch, the park was crawling with folks enjoying edibles, selling baseball caps and just chilling out in the sun. Tony Doles pointed out how mellow he and his friends were being despite the fact that smoking marijuana for fun is illegal, according to the federal government.

    "No one's hurting anyone," he said.

    Pot laws could change soon. While California approved the use of medical marijuana in 1996, a marijuana legalization initiative is likely to be on the November ballot statewide. Thinking ahead, San Francisco's Flow Kana this week launched what it said was the nation's first all-encompassing marketing campaign advertising small-batch, organic marijuana.

    4/20 Smokeout in San Francisco4/20 Smokeout in San Francisco

    That’s not to say the cops won’t be out and making arrests. Even if it's not for toking up. Supervisor London Breed said there will be more police, park rangers, fire and transportation officials on scene to make sure the cannabis holiday is a safe experience for the thousands of revelers expected to flood the park.

    In 2015, there were five arrests, SFist reported, one for assault with a deadly weapon for hitting someone on the head with a bottle, two more for outstanding warrant, and two for intoxication. Last year, 10,000 people attended.

    But that's not what Andrew Morris wanted to focus on. "Hey, one person threw a bottle last year and it makes it bad for the rest of us," he said.

    The unsanctioned event costs the city between $80,000 and $100,000 per year because additional help has to be requested from city agencies to ensure safety, control heavy traffic and collect trash. The average amount of trash collected each year? Five tons.

    The weed lovers' celebration is practiced throughout the country, but its roots originate in the Bay Area.

    As for why 4/20? It stems back to a group of San Rafael High School students in the '70s – nicknamed the Waldos – who would get high at 4:20 p.m.

    Dozens of workers will be out early Thursday after working late to clean up Hippie Hill.

    Contact Lisa Fernandez at lisa.fernandez@nbcuni.com or 408-432-4758. Follow on Twitter at @ljfernandez