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Sorry, stoners: No glass bongs allowed at first 4/20 event with city-sanctioned services

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Hundreds of people pack into Golden Gate Park’s Hippie Hill during a 4/20 celebration in San Francisco, Calif. Wednesday, April 20, 2016. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Rules are coming to the annual 4/20 celebration in Golden Gate Park that may put a harsh on some people’s buzz, but it’s not all half-baked.

Along with the new rules come — for the first time in the history of the event celebrating cannabis — a permit to provide medical services, security, food trucks, sponsored booths and fences.

Sorry, stoners, but one of those new rules is a ban on glass, and that means no glass bongs.

“The thinking behind ‘no glass’ is when it breaks, it can be bad for the park and dangerous for people. Any kind of glass can break, be it wine glass or a beer bottle,” said Sarah Madland, a spokesperson for the Recreation and Park Department.

“Let’s encourage people to use something else,” she said, “an apple, a [ceramic] pipe, I remember all sorts of instruments used in high school and beyond.”

While some of those are new conveniences for the impromptu event at Golden Gate Park’s Hippie Hill, a permit for such activities is new in the event’s history, said Madland.

The permits to provide those services, which are not event permits, were approved Wednesday morning, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.

“The event exists and it has grown,” Madland said. “It continues to be challenging first and foremost to provide for safety, and beyond that all the ripple effects. This is a creative way to try to handle some of that.”

The event has no official organizer, and for years has seen upwards of ten thousand people descend on Golden Gate Park’s Hippie Hill, near Stanyan Street, to celebrate the marijuana-inspired holiday. But for years the event has stymied local officials: last year, for instance, it cost $25,000 to clean up 11 tons of garbage.

In addition to the new medical and safety services, new rules will disallow certain items to the event, according to Rec & Park, including alcohol, cannabis products for sale, amplified music, barbecues, glass, seats, tables and folding chairs, large coolers, and tents.

In previous years, the Examiner has observed glass bongs aplenty at 4/20, including one truly epic 10-foot glass bong smoked by adventurous San Franciscans.

A number of city officials were convened last week by Board of Supervisors President London Breed to address concerns around the 4/20 event, her office confirmed.

“Love it or hate it, the 420 festival is not going away, and it has a significant impact on our city, on our district and on the park system,” Breed said in a statement. “We don’t want to sanction the event, but it’s also irresponsible for The City to ignore it.”

At some point, as neighborhood news source Hoodline earlier reported, Alex Aquino, owner of Black Scale clothing on Haight Street, sought the permit to provide services for 4/20.

Madland confirmed that Aquino obtained the permit Wednesday.

Though the permit was free, the cost of sponsoring the needed services may be “well north of $100,000” for the permit holder, Madland said. That cost will fall on Aquino.

Now, “If something goes wrong, there’s an ambulance on site, if there’s an emergency, there’s a medical plan to take care of people,” Madland said.

Aquino, who belongs to the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council, said he still needs to raise funds from sponsors to provide those medical and safety services.

As to why he stepped forward, Aquino said he is from San Francisco, and is raising his kid in San Francisco, he told the Examiner.

“We’re just trying to help out as a member of the community,” he said. As a member of the Upper Haight neighborhood, he said, he saw the 4/20 event grow year after year, with no sponsor, no private safety services and no sponsored cleanup for the thousands of people descending on Golden Gate Park.

He didn’t want the event’s own growth to hurt it, he said.

“We don’t want it to be Halloween in the Castro,” he said, referring to the event stopped by city officials after it became too large and violent. “We miss that event.”

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