Calif. officials prepare to snuff out '420' madness
Chief said smokers aren't a big concern for police
By Marisa Lagos
SAN FRANCISCO — "If everyone would just be cool, it's cool." — San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr.
That was the message from city officials Wednesday as they discussed plans to deal with Sunday's annual "420" pot-smoking celebration, which last year left the city to clean up 10,000 pounds of trash, brought traffic in the Haight to a standstill and led to a fight.
At a press conference led by Supervisor London Breed, whose district includes the Haight and Golden Gate Park — where most of last year's revelry occurred around Hippie Hill at Sharon Meadow — city officials stressed that they weren't trying to kill the fun, just ensure everyone stays safe.
But weed smoking appears to be the least of their worries. Illegal parking, camping, drug sales, open alcohol containers and underage drinking were among the "code violations" that Suhr, Breed, and Recreation and Park head Phil Ginsburg said would be enforced with vigor.
They also warned that anyone illegally parked would be ticketed or towed and urged the masses to take any trash with them. But "marijuana" didn't even pass the lips of a city official until Juvenile Probation Chief Alan Nance got up to speak.
"Underage drinking, drug sales and the use of marijuana by young people is something we have concerns about," said Nance, who plans to station juvenile probation officers alongside police and park patrol officers in the park Sunday.
Breed, who last year threatened to shut down the impromptu celebration, said her main goal is to make sure everyone stays safe and respectful — "not to be a buzz kill or judge anybody's recreational activity."
"People have a right to assemble in parks — they have a right to enjoy the city — so (a ban threat) was probably a little harsh," she said. "I don't feel we can say, 'Don't come here for 420,' but we can say, 'Come to San Francisco, but we're prepared: If you break the law, we will enforce it.' "
Whether that enforcement will include cracking down on the spliff lovers is up to police, she said. Smoking anything, Breed noted, is illegal in city parks, "and I am not by any means condoning any illegal activity, including smoking marijuana for nonmedical purposes."
But Suhr said smokers aren't a big concern for police.
"Sale of marijuana is a felony in this city. I don't think we are naive enough to think we can stop everyone in San Francisco from smoking medical marijuana or otherwise in San Francisco this weekend," he said.
"If everyone would just be cool, it's cool. But as soon as it affects everyone else, then it could be the end of something that we are saying already has reached a tipping point."
The expected celebration will coincide with Easter Sunday and a number of other, sanctioned, events in Golden Gate Park. Ginsburg said if residents don't have a specific reason to be at the park, they might want to stay home.
Copyright 2014 the San Francisco Chronicle
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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