The student-run magazine of San Francisco State University

Xpress Magazine

The student-run magazine of San Francisco State University

Xpress Magazine

The student-run magazine of San Francisco State University

Xpress Magazine

Spark in the Park

A decades-long tradition continues despite attempted cancellation
Tam Vu
Angel Hancock puts a large joint up to his lips at Hippie Hill in San Francisco, on April 20, 2024.

Nestled between Haight Street and the Conservatory of Flowers lies the historic Hippie Hill. Surrounded by tall shady trees and refreshing green foliage, the hill overlooks Robin Williams Meadow and is a perfect place for picnics, basking in the sun and, on occasion, live music. 

Although it was a perfectly sunny day, a thick layer of haze lingered over San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on April 20. No, Karl the Fog was not paying the park a visit, and no, your glasses were not smudged. The mystical haze was simply caused by the celebration of a holiday that began right here in Northern California: 4/20.

Stacey juggles as others lounge on the grass on Hippie Hill, in San Francisco on April 20, 2024. (Tam Vu/Xpress)

The park became a landmark location after the 1967 Summer of Love counterculture movement. Each year, tens of thousands of cannabis lovers gather at Hippie Hill for the unofficial, unsanctioned annual 4/20 celebration. Unfortunately,for smokers, this year’s official event was canceled due to city-wide budget cuts and the diminishing cannabis market. But, the “cancellation” was no match for cannabis-loving San Franciscans, who made sure the park was anything but quiet. 

An Aries Distribution employee fans out a spread of blunt wraps at Hippie Hill, in San Francisco on April 20, 2024. (Tam Vu/Xpress)

Densely packed together, hundreds, if not thousands, of people relaxed across picnic blankets, participating in friendly exchanges. With rolling trays in their laps, they listened to the enchanting music coming from one of the multiple community drum circles around the park. The pungent aroma could be smelled for miles amidst those passing around bongs, pipes, blunts and comically large joints. While the recreational use of marijuana has been legalized in the state of California, it is still not legal federally, and Hippie Hill is in a federal park. So how is this possible?

For years, the city of San Francisco contemplated how to put an end to the events at Hippie Hill. Former Mayor Ed Lee told CBS News that they ultimately came to the realization that prohibiting 4/20 celebrations at the park would likely result in the dispersion of multiple events, making it even harder to regulate. In 2017, a year after the legalization of marijuana, the city begrudgingly decided against punitive enforcement and worked with organizers to permit the event.

Mike More, of Aries Distribution, holds open two bags of marijuana at Hippie Hill in San Francisco on April 20, 2024. (Tam Vu/Xpress)

Acquiring a permit for an event of this nature requires a couple more steps than it usually would. The Office of Cannabis normally handles marijuana-related permits. However, according to The San Francisco Standard, organizers of 4/20 at Hippie Hill needed additional approval from the San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department, the Departments of Health, both juvenile and adult probation departments and the SF Municipal Transportation Agency.

Considering SF State is a federal campus, students who live on campus don’t particularly have the option to celebrate from the comfort of their homes. Hippie Hill offers an adventurous alternative experience.

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About the Contributors
Giovanna Montoya
Giovanna Montoya, Editor-in-Chief
Giovanna Montoya is the Editor-in-Chief of Xpress Magazine for the Spring 2024 semester. She is a journalism major with a minor in media literacy. Giovanna was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, where she studied 4 years of filmmaking and cinematography. She is an avid pickle-lover with a bold, adventurous personality, and would try anything at least once. There is nothing more important to her than her dog Pixel (nicknamed “pickle”), who has been a part of her life since she was 8-years-old. Writing and experiencing new things help distract from the fact that she’s 350 miles away from her fur-baby.
Tam Vu
Tam Vu, Visuals Editor
Tam Vu (she/her) is a Vietnamese-American photographer for Golden Gate Xpress and Xpress Magazine. She is a photojournalism major with a minor in Asian American studies. She originally entered SF State as a print and online journalism major, but switched to photojournalism in her second year after finding her passion for visual storytelling. Her special interests include Asian American identity and underground music. In the future she hopes to make a video documentary on her parents' immigration story to highlight the generational impact that the Vietnam War has on many families.

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