Hollyweed Bust: Artist Behind Sign Prank Faces Six Months

We Need to Talk about Hollywood's Representation of Weed Culture
Photo Courtesy of Snopes

Justice is coming to Hollyweed.

The man behind the New Year’s Day prank, in which the famous Hollywood sign in the hills above Los Angeles was changed, via tarps, to read “Hollyweed,” turned himself in to Los Angeles police on Monday, according to reports.

Zachary Cole Fernandez, a 30-year-old artist, first took credit for the prank in an interview with VICE, in which he also detailed how he pulled it off.

He’s now charged with misdemeanor trespassing, and though he’s free on $1,000 bond before a Feb. 15 court hearing, he could face up to six months in jail for the “crime,” as the Los Angeles Times reports.

Fernandez freely admits to being the “man in black” (in truth, it was camouflage) captured on security footage entering the fenced-off area around the world-famous sign at around 3 a.m. on January 1.

To pull the stunt off required meticulous planning as well as considerable fortitude. Scaling the security fences was the easiest part. As Fernandez told VICE, reaching the appropriate places on the sign’s O’s, where he affixed white and black tarps to change them to E’s, required a 20-foot climb on a rope.

Fernandez’s stunt was part activism and part homage to the “other” Hollyweed. In 1976, artist and activist Daniel Finegood scaled the sign armed with sheets to change the O’s to E’s to mark passage of California’s then-recent move to change possession of marijuana from a felony charge to a misdemeanor.

To do the same, 41 years later, when California voted to legalize cannabis cultivation and use outright, was only proper.

Not that any of that matters to certain killjoys in positions of authority.

On Monday, L.A. City Councilman David Ryu, whose district includes the hill and the sign, issued a statement that decried the prank and the toll it took on “our valuable public safety personnel,” and reiterated an earlier call for the LAPD and the district attorney to “prosecute this case, as well as all attempts to trespass near, alter, or vandalize the sign.”

Keep in mind that Fernandez used clamps on his tarps that could be—and were, within hours of the world waking up to Hollyweed on Jan. 1—easily removed.

In an interview with The New York Times, Fernandez freely admitted to “[breaking] the rules, but I broke it with good spirit and good intentions. It was just to bring light and positivity and happiness.” He also told VICE that he’d be willing to suffer any consequences laid out by authorities.

It remains to be seen what punishment Fernandez will suffer for the prank.

Considering Finegood altered the sign multiple times over a period of several decades without doing any jail time or paying a significant fine, the only true crime around “Hollyweed” would be seeing Fernandez pay a stiff price.

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