- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Marijuana enthusiasts received a stern warning Monday from city officials in San Francisco, where the coronavirus has sidelined a counterculture event held annually on April 20.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said people who try to congregate during the coronavirus pandemic to participate in a yearly “4/20” celebration next week will risk being arrested.

“To be clear: 4/20 will not be tolerated this year. Do not come to San Francisco to celebrate,” Ms. Breed, a Democrat, said on Twitter.

Thousands of people normally gather every April 20 in part of Golden Gate Park to smoke, vape or otherwise consume marijuana in defiance of longstanding pot laws.

And while authorities have previously looked the other way, Ms. Breed said police will cite and arrest people if necessary for assembling at so-called “Hippie Hill” this April 20.

“We will not allow this unsanctioned event to occur this year, especially in the height of a pandemic,” Ms. Breed stressed during a press conference.

The portion of Golden Gate Park where the event is normally held will be “completely fenced off” and patrolled by police, Ms. Breed added.

“We will be there in full force to make sure that we don’t have gatherings of people on April 20 who are trying to celebrate 4/20,” said San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott.

Ms. Breed and Mr. Scott each offered alternatives to flocking to “Hippie Hill,” but they cautioned against gathering in groups anywhere during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“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,” said Ms. Breed, who proposed that people stay home, order food and watch Netflix.

San Francisco’s police chief suggested people virtually celebrate 4/20 together, meanwhile.

“We encourage you to Zoom or whatever teleconferences that you use to do this in the privacy of your own,” Mr. Scott said. “But please do not come to San Francisco and gather to celebrate 4/20. Do it responsibly if you’re doing to do it at all, do it safely and do it in a manner that’s consistent with the public health orders of our state and our city.”

San Francisco was one of the first cities in the U.S. to issue a shelter-in-place order last month as localities across the country began considering drastic measures to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, the infectious respiratory disease it causes. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a fellow Democrat, subsequently issued a statewide stay-at-home order covering all of California, and both of those orders currently remain in effect.

California is among 11 states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, which is prohibited under federal law. San Francisco does not allow it to be consumed in public, however.

Upwards of 15,000 people attended last year’s 4/20 celebration in San Francisco, according to local news reports.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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