4/20 Hippie Hill celebration returns after COVID hiatus

With a collective deep breath and a plume of smoke at 4:20 p.m. on 4/20, San Francisco's Hippie Hill celebration was back.

Organizers said this year's festivities were especially welcome after a two-year hiatus.

"It's amazing to be back," said Alex Aquino, the 4/20 event organizer. "We're human, we need to gather and see each other eye to eye. But, again, this is the celebration of life and the plant and medicine."

Visitors who returned for in-person celebrations said the event has evolved.

"It's a little bit more commercial, but that's fine," said Guinevere. "I mean there was a line instead of people just coming in from all directions and just ending up in one space."

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Visitors said they're ready to share space and more with the cannabis community.

"I'm actually allowed to give away up to an ounce to anyone over 21 free of charge," said Big Mike. "So, I've actually been giving nugs away to people that ask me. Trying to make it last the day because it'd be gone in five minutes if I gave everyone a nug. But, it's just a little personal stash."

The big event featured a major change this year. For the first time ever, not only could cannabis be legally used at the 4/20 celebration, but sold as well.

That meant ID checks upon entry and no one under 21 years of age was allowed in.

Visitors said they love the idea of being able to buy and use right here.

"It's kind of liberating honestly, I go to dispensaries, and honestly it feels like there's a lot of security, you have to go through a lot of systems," said Fernando Hurtdado. "But here you just walk up, give your ID and that's it."

For vendors what it means is a bump in business and a benefit to local entrepreneurs, especially those who may have been penalized by previous cannabis policies.

"Hopefully it kind of frees up the people who have been in trouble in the past because this is the new wave," said Omar Sanchez from The Green Door. "I mean, it is legal now, and hopefully it opens doors for people to get new careers and well-paying jobs."

The city has somewhat reluctantly embraced the event which started as an unsanctioned party. But with that, the city has a little more control. from the licensed vendors selling inside to making sure there are adequate sanitary facilities so the surrounding neighborhoods aren't left with a mess to clean up.