There will be no Hippie Hill 420 festival. Some San Francisco weed gurus say, so what?

Andrew J. Campa, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Lifestyles

San Francisco's Hippie Hill will not host the annual pungent, hazy and packed cannabis 420 festival whose roots trace back to the Summer of Love, event organizers announced Monday.

Whether the cancellation of the April 20 event will dampen 420 — a day that is observed by cannabis enthusiasts far and wide — is debatable, Bay Area weed advocates say.

Organizer Sound Bazaar posted on Instagram that the annual event held in Golden Gate Park would "not be happening as planned this year." Citywide budget cutbacks and financial struggles within the cannabis industry hampered fundraising efforts and led to the cancellation, organizers said.

San Francisco's Recreation and Park Department confirmed in a statement that budget cuts affected its ability to cover event staffing.

This year's festival was supposed to be the third since gatherings in 2020 and 2021 were scrubbed due to the pandemic.

The city and organizers returned with an estimated crowd of 20,000 in 2022. The event had been city-backed for years and featured music, cannabis, food and comedy acts.

Both the organizers and the department stressed that there would be no stage, live music or cannabis booth at Golden Gate Park, as there were in previous years.

The park department will fill the void at Hippie Hill with a volleyball and kickball tournament.

"We understand the disappointment and hope to make it up with a great event next year," 420 organizer Alex Aquino said in a statement.

The event's cancellation was met with cheers by William Dolan, CEO of San Francisco-based Hyrba Marketplace dispensary.

Dolan said the 420 festival had become "corporatized and over-regulated" and had veered away from the spirit of Hippie Hill's first gatherings.

"420 in GG Park has a long, storied history that dates back for decades before the fences, ID checks, and litany of restrictions that came along with a city-sponsored and corporate-backed event," Dolan said in an emailed statement.

Hippie Hill's proximity to the famed Haight-Ashbury neighborhood transformed the site, which is in the Robin Williams Meadow section of Golden Gate Park.

Beatle George Harrison is said to have played his guitar at Hippie Hill in 1967 and led a march from the park to the Haight.


The area became a meeting spot for artists, antiwar protesters, poets and others in the late '60s, noted Brian Applegarth, founder of Bay Area-based Applegarth Strategies, a data-driven consultancy with a specialty in cannabis.

Applegarth referred to the event's cancellation as "unfortunate" but said it wouldn't dent cannabis-based travel to San Francisco, which the consultancy tracks as part of its services.

About 52 million Americans consumed marijuana in 2022, according to a report released by the Center for Advancing Health, an organization of health experts who specialize in medical research and reporting.

Applegarth estimates that about 40% of what he calls the "active leisure audience" are designing travel with cannabis in mind.

He described those travelers as enjoying "the culture and the history" of a destination, "along with the product."

Like they do at Hippie Hill, he said.

"Destination-wise, Hippie Hill has been an attractive place for 420 for decades, long before it was a ticketed event or there were food vendors," Applegarth said. "People will still visit and celebrate the activism, the history and the weed before and after 420."

As for 420, Obsidian Dispensary owner Alex Asefaw said he still expected the city to be buzzing with activity.

"A lot of people are going to still come out and celebrate the day regardless if there is a festival or not," he said. "We're anticipating the same crowds here and not much else to change."

Aquino, the festival organizer, encouraged eventgoers to "support their local equity brands, dispensaries, and lounges on 420 as we all celebrate plant medicine."

Applegarth suggested those wanting to take part in celebrations visit during San Francisco Weed Week, April 13-20, or visit some of the dispensaries, galleries, parks and other sites highlighted on Oakland's Cannabis Trail.

"In reality, 420 has not been canceled; it has been revived," Dolan said. "This gathering belongs to the people and to our cannabis community, and I am sure we're going to see one of the best 420s ever in 2024."

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