San Francisco city officials said on Thursday they're cautioning visitors of the city's annual marijuana celebration "Four-Twenty" against buying or accepting cannabis from unlicensed vendors after nearly a dozen event-goers were hospitalized for opioid overdoses at last year's event.
This year's pot celebration, held every April 20 at Golden Gate Park's Sharon Meadow area, also known as Hippie Hill, marks the second event since the legalization of marijuana.
"Last year, we had between 10 and 12 people who overdosed on fentanyl," Supervisor Vallie Brown said during a news conference Thursday.
"So what I'm saying to the public is, you are welcome to come to four-twenty and enjoy yourself on Hippie Hill, but we are asking you please do not buy your cannabis on the street or the black market, because we do not control that cannabis," she said.
"Yes cannabis is legal but what we found last year is people were coming into this area and selling it on the black market. We do not want you to buy it. A lot of it was laced with fentanyl and we know that is deadly," she said.
Instead, Brown asked that visitors buy from licensed providers like cannabis clubs.
Because this year's event falls on a Saturday, city officials are expecting from 5,000 to 10,000 more people than at last year's event, which was attended by 15,000 to 20,000 people.
In response, San Francisco police will provide extra officers throughout the area, both uniformed and plainclothes, starting Thursday and going through Saturday. Additionally, paramedics will be on hand.
Both police and paramedics will be equipped with Narcan, which can reverse the effects of opioid overdoses.
This year's event marks the third time the city is partnering with event producer and Haight Street businessman Alex Aquino.
Previously, for decades before, the event went on without any type of sponsorship or extra security, leading to traffic nightmares, instances of people urinating in public, damage to public and private property and straining police, park and transportation resources.
"We're ready for more people to come and basically we're beefing up the corridor clean up and we got downtown street sweepers helping out," Aquino said. "We upped the porta-potties and we have more ambulances and EMTs on site, a bigger clean-up crew and we're just going to have a bigger event."
Although smoking will be allowed inside the fenced, 18 and over event, only those who are 21 and over will be allowed to so.
City officials are cautioning visitors against driving and encourage them to take a bus, as San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency officials are set to provide more buses and shuttles to and from the area. Also, an area near Hippie Hill will be designated for ride share service cars like Uber and Lyft.