One of the biggest celebrations for marijuana supporters kicked off at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on Monday.
Every year on April 20, weed enthusiasts, with joints and bongs in-hand, flock to San Francisco to celebrate the 4/20 “holiday,” whose numerical nickname stems from the Bay Area.
According to Huffington Post writer Ryan Grim, five San Rafael High School students created the term in 1971 while on the hunt for marijuana plants in Point Reyes. They planned to meet after school at 4:20 to begin their search, and used the phrase “4:20” as a reminder when passing each other in the halls. From there, it grew into a code word and an unofficial April holiday.
Now, the unpermitted, unsanctioned 4/20 event garners plenty of police presence, as well as the attention of park rangers. Police Sgt. Ron Meyer of the Park Station told SFist that he expects between 5,000 and 15,000 people this year since it falls on a weekday.
Even if law enforcement and a case of the Mondays hasn’t detered attendees, the lack of parking might. This year, much of the parking around Golden Gate Park has been roped off, forcing those who drove into the city to park in nearby neighborhoods, or squeeze onto Muni buses that run alongside the park.
San Francisco resident Erin Skoblick lives across the street from Golden Gate Park, and says she’s noticed an increase in traffic and number of park visitors.
“I work across the park, and coming down 9th Avenue was especially congested with cars and nearly everyone smoking,” Skoblick said. “The crowds are mostly contained to the park, except for the buses which are noticeably more crowded.”
Regardless, the participants seemed to be having a good time well before the lunch hour.
“Everybody’s out here to be friends. I think that’s what it’s always been about,” said Corey Baxter, who traveled all the way from Stockton for the celebration. “That’s how I made the majority of my friends, through this recreational thing.”
Meanwhile, outside of the park, the tide is starting to turn on the public perception of marijuana. In a CNN interview that aired Sunday night, President Obama said he supports a Senate bill dubbed “Carers Act,” which encourages respecting state legal medical marijuana programs.
The bill also recommends research into what kind of medical benefits marijuana may bring, stating the attorney general must allow FDA-approved research. If passed, the bill would also reclassify marijuana from a schedule one drug – alongside heroin and LSD – to schedule two, leading to a lower incarceration rate for non-violent drug possession.
Marijuana supporters say the president is on the right track
4-20 celebration at Golden Gate Park. Smoke and munchies easy to find. Parking is not. pic.twitter.com/RVcpSF033F
— Michelle Roberts (@Michelle_NBC) April 20, 2015
— NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea) April 20, 2015