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San Francisco Events May Soon Allow Marijuana Sale and Consumption

Last year, some 420 in the Park festival goers were hospitalized after smoking fentanyl-laced weed. City officials hope permits can keep dangerous drugs out of the event.

Adam Drury

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San Francisco Events May Soon Allow Marijuana Sale and Consumption
Aleksandra Belinskaya/ Shutterstock

On Tuesday, San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman announced that the city would soon be accepting applications for city permits to allow legal cannabis sales and consumption at public events. That means parades, festivals, concerts, fairs, farmers markets and more could all soon have legal weed available for attendees. And the best part is, those attendees will be able to smoke, vape or otherwise consume that cannabis at the event itself.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors Set To Approve Permits for Marijuana Ahead of Annual 420 Event

Every year, San Francisco hosts a 420 event in Golden Gate Park. Dubbed “420 in the Park,” the festival is a gigantic gathering at Hippie Hill. Historically, 420 in the Park has eschewed licenses and permits. But the totally unofficial festival has become massively popular in recent years, thanks to legalization, and thus, more of an issue for city residents. The larger crowds have attracted some violent attendees, harshing everyone’s vibe. And the trash left behind has reportedly been outrageous; as in, 11-tons-of-garbage outrageous.

To attempt to get a handle on things, San Francisco actually permitted the event in 2018. It brought in sponsors, set up fencing around the Sharon Meadows site, beefed up security, and, most importantly, provided an adequate number of wastebaskets and portable toilets. With more food vendors and trucks, a real sound system and paid DJs, 420 in the Park finally looked like an official party.

No doubt, this year’s crowd will be even bigger. And to head off any potential problems, San Francisco is planning to allow cannabis vendors to obtain permits to sell at the Hippie Hill event. Cannabis is legal for adults to buy, possess and (privately) consume in California. But in many ways, events like these break all the rules. Ironically, that wasn’t such a big deal when it was illegal to buy and consume weed. The authorities tended to just look the other way. But now that there’s a legal industry, with rules and regulations to follow, events like 420 in the Park are more difficult to pull off.

City Officials Say Permits Will Keep Fentanyl-Laced Weed Out of the Event

Events like San Francisco’s annual 420 bash now have a more complicated legal landscape to follow. They need permits from the state and they need permits from the city. But first, the city needs to implement the state law that lets cities permit cannabis events. Only if, however, those events meet certain criteria, criteria that will change in 2022—you get the picture.

But all the complexity has a clear purpose: safety. The more we learn about products coming out of California’s unregulated cannabis producers, the more cause there is for concern. From pesticides in flower to lead in vape cartridges, product quality has so far been a major issue for consumers. And last year’s 420 in the Park is a good example. “The thing that we are really worried about and what happened last year is that we had people .. that were selling pot with fentanyl in it,” said city Supervisor Vallie Brown.

Fentanyl is an extremely addictive and lethal synthetic opioid painkiller. Fentanyl-laced weed isn’t common, but consuming it all guarantees a trip to the hospital. At last year’s 420 event, Brown said several people had to be taken away in ambulances.

Permits for Marijuana Sales and Consumption Still Face Challenges

San Francisco’s plan to permit the event to reduce illegal sales and consumption of untested products could run up against some other challenges. For one, city ordinances prohibit smoking in public parks, and California’s adult-use laws prohibit cannabis consumption anywhere smoking is forbidden. Then, there’s the state law against consuming alcohol and cannabis in the same space.

For now, then, San Francisco isn’t worrying much about the consumption issue. It’s going to happen anyway, and officials plan to handle problems on a case-by-case basis. But event goers can breathe easy. The city actually has a law making marijuana offenses by adults law enforcement’s lowest priority.

San Fransisco Supervisors say the permits will vary in cost depending on how many people will attend the event. For smaller events up to 500 people, permits will be as low as $500. For larger events of 2,500 or more, however, permits can cost as much as $3,000.

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