Celebrations for the cannabis community’s high holiday will be absent from San Francisco’s “Hippie Hill” this year after the city’s mayor declared the area off-limits for 4/20. Mayor London Breed announced the April 20 closure of the area of Golden Gate Park also known as Robin Williams Meadow at a news conference on Monday.
For decades, Hippie Hill has been the site of the city’s largest 4/20 celebration. Each year’s event draws thousands of revelers from the greater San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, who gather to smoke out and celebrate all things cannabis. Although not an officially sanctioned event, city government and police have allowed some minor infractions of the law, including smoking marijuana in public, to occur without challenge. But that won’t be the case this year due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
“I want to be clear with people who come to San Francisco on 4/20 to Robin Williams Meadow to celebrate 4/20,” Breed said. “Do not come to San Francisco on 4/20. We will not allow this unsanctioned event to occur this year, especially at the height of a pandemic.”
Due to the city’s stay-at-home order and a ban on large gatherings issued to help contain the spread of the virus, the organizers of the Hippie Hill 420 festival, which drew an estimated 19,000 people last year, announced in March that this year’s event would not go on as planned.
“We take the health and safety of the public, our staff, vendors and sponsors very seriously,” the organizers wrote on their website in announcing the cancellation. “We feel it’s all of our responsibility to do our part to minimize social gathering and potential spread of this virus in the community.”
Violators Risk Arrest
To prevent unauthorized celebrations at Hippie Hill, the area will be fenced off by the city on April 20. Police will be setting up roadblocks to prevent people from entering the park and those who congregate in the area risk citation or arrest.
But city officials are also concerned that impromptu celebrations will pop up around San Francisco because of cancellation of the Hippie Hill 4/20 festival, motivating Breed to issue a stern warning to anyone considering the idea.
“We will not tolerate anyone coming to San Francisco for 4/20 this year,” she said.
“I just want to say for your own health and safety, please do not come,” the mayor added. “Please do not come. Please do not try and identify another location. It is not safe for us to gather in large groups of people, especially during a pandemic, because the consequences could be deadly.”
San Francisco’s ban on public gatherings of more than 100 people is officially in effect until May 1, although it and the city’s stay-at-home order are likely to be extended. As of Wednesday, California has recorded 25,779 cases of coronavirus infection and 790 deaths related to the virus.
There has been much controversy and mystery surrounding the term 4:20 and why it’s associated with pot. The mystery reminded me of my true story on the origin of, “Let’s book”.
Early in the 70’s, “the three Johns” (nicknamed that because their first names were all John) started participating in many 4:20 activities. When smiling the “illegal smile”, they would play word games. On one 4:20 occasion they bastardized the Spanish word for “let’s go” – “vamonos”, and started saying “book-a-los”.
Note, one of the Johns did take German in 7th grade. The German phrase for “What’s happening” is Was ist los? Thus, it’s quite possible that this John in his cloudy 4:20 brain, mashed “Vamonos” and “Was ist los” into the phrase “book-a-los”. This phrase, “Book-a-los!”, became the trios short hand for “Let’s Go”. However after much usage, of both the phrase and 4:20, they shortened the phrase to “Let’s book”. Or, “I’ve got to book”, meaning “I have to be somewhere in a hurry”. Usually the hurry was associated with 4:20 activities.
The group was quite popular with others who participated in 4:20 activities and their phrase started to pick-up traction. Eventually, most of the 4:20 enthusiasts of St. Cloud, MN began using the phrase, “Let’s book”.
In the late 70’s and 80’s, 4:20 became passe as cocaine fueled American dreams of high finance, high adventure and just getting high. From college campuses to Wall Street “young Americans”, snorted their way to euphoria. Note, the David Bowie musical lyric, “All night – she was a young American”, has nothing to do with the preceding, but then again, it could.
Nonetheless, as 4:20 enthusiasts started to infiltrate college campuses they took with them 4:20, 4:20 paraphernalia and 4:20 vernacular including the phrase “Let’s Book”. However, as these former 4:20 heads were now sticking their heads into books, the phrase “Let’s Book” became shorthand for “Let’s study together”. Or, “I have to book”, or “I have to book it”, meaning I have to study.
Thus and therefore the phrase “Let’s book” and 4:20 shall be forever linked in the anal of 4:20 history. And that my friends, is the rest of the story…