Let’s Show President Obama The Real San Francisco This 4-20


Photo: GoldenGatePark.com
San Francisco’s 4-20 celebration typically culminates in Golden Gate Park at Hippie Hill. But this year President Obama’s gonna be in town…

​By Jack Rikess

Toke of the Town

Northern California Correspondent

“They say I shot a man named Gray and took his wife to Italy. She inherited a million bucks and when she died it came to me. I can’t help it if I’m lucky.” ~ Bob Dylan

I never planned on seeing the Beatles. It wasn’t my fault they didn’t sell out when they played St. Paul, Minnesota in 1965 and literally had to give away seats.
I’m sure if my Dad had to pay for tickets, my babysitter, a neighbor who had a driver’s license and one of his pals, would never have made it to Met Stadium that summer’s night to see one of the crowning events of my life.
The same could be said for Burning Man. I was just going to a bonfire. I never plan on being a part of something.

Photo: John Montgomery/Slash Oil

​It was just this thing that we did after Christmas. Go down to Ocean Beach, light some doobs and watch the pyros torch some discarded Xmas trees, and a bunch of us would blaze away in the night.
It went to three Burning Mans before I knew I was ever there. Sand blasting tripping and Ticketmaster were still light dunes away in time.
Then there was the 20 after 4 thing. I used to study hypnagogue meditation in Sausalito in the early Eighties. I would ride my old 10-speed bike over the hills and dales, eventually hitting the back trails of the Golden Gate Bridge, making my way to the little bayside port of that financially challenged tourist trap called Sausalito.
On the flipside, I took the same deer paths back, with the exception of a pit stop on the ocean side of Mount Tamalpais. Every Wednesday I would sit there like a stoned statue, gazing out over the Bay after my inner traveling sessions.
Then they would come.
At around 4:15, 4:20, these guys around me age would come bombing down the slope on homemade mountain bikes and peel by me. Blazing with doobs dangling from their mouths like howling commandos.
Eventually they stopped one day; we hung, we smoked and they told me about their high school pact. These golden guys who couldn’t have been more California to this Midwestern kid, with their unique bikes and thoroughly out-frontness with the weed. They were Freedom.
They told me since graduation, as many of them as possible would meet every day at 4:20 on Mount Tam for a smoke session. Seeing how we continued to bump into each other for the next couple of years, I never thought anything of it.
Until I heard people talking about it, and I realized, like seeing the Beatles and soon, Burning Man, that I was part of a club I never intended joining.
But because of those innocent early romps, I’ve been a lifelong Beatles fan, I love to watch things burn, and by the inlaid chestnut colored resin on my fingertips, I apparently have a special place for April 20.

Photo: Greg – AdventuresofaGoodMan.com

​Besides being incredibly lucky for having attended the events above, I live across the street from Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park. Starting around the 12th of April, VW vans and tortured school buses begin to sprout along the Panhandle and near the Haight. By the 14th, it’s like Jerry has risen from the Polo Grounds and the Deadheads, having been cosmically tweeted to the event from the other side.
Soon, Golden Gate Park has many happy campers slowly making their way to Hippie Hill waiting for the grand moment of 20 after 4.
On the day of April 20, starting in the early morning as the fog burns off, from the Mission to the Financial District, the smell of marijuana is carried by the breeze. By noon, the city is engulfed in a cloud of reefer. Dilettantes and cops light up. It seems like the whole city is smoking.
Through it all, there is a zombie-walk of minions making their way to Golden Gate Park to be at Hippie Hill at 4:20, America’s unofficial official celebration of marijuana. Just like the way the Hash Bash in Michigan has been happening, just like Mad City’s Festival of Lights, and other smoke-outs that have been traditionally going on unmolested throughout America for years.
By the end of the day in Golden Gate Park, there are thousands and thousands of blurred-eyed little hobbits, happy and grinning, sharing joints and experiences, peacefully assembling just for the joy of it.
In the era of Grassnost, where it seems that in San Francisco marijuana’s already legal, hardly a sober head or a society blue-hair notices now when a parade of tie-dyed Jerry’s Kids come marching by with a blunt the size of Barry Bonds’ inflated right arm, smoking like a Pittsburgh stack.
It’s just another 4/20 in San Francisco, right?
That’s the way it’s been for the past few decades. But this April 20 is going to be a little different.

Photo: Fortuna That Vicious Slut

​For some crazy, misguided reason, the President of the United States is coming to San Francisco on the 20th of April for a fundraising excursion in the Bay Area.
I have checked the papers and the Net everyday to make sure it’s still happening. I keep on thinking there has to be one head in the Department of the Interior or maybe the guy who’s in charge of figuring out President Obama’s Netflix queue, who might offer, “Hey guys, y’know the President is driving through San Francisco, America’s Sodom and Gomorrah, on the day that three quarters of the population is going to be higher than Charlie Sheen’s ego. Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
Is it really a good idea for the President who originally said he and his attorney general would not pursue medical marijuana, and in fact, make it a low priority with their Administration? While President Obama is still the most liberal President we’ve had since 2008, he has turned his back on the marijuana issue.
Even more demeaning, he laughs and giggles like a local daytime newscaster when he’s approached on the subjects of medical marijuana and legalization.
Maybe he forgets it was the youth vote and the independents that got him into office.
When banks are told by the Feds that any financial institutions who do business with dispensaries and anything to do with the medical marijuana commerce, are going to
be under a federal microscope and better be ready to get audited? When the Feds raid dispensaries and create panic and disorder in the emerging medical marijuana market for the sake of knowing who the boss is?
Maybe it’s about time we do something.


​Maybe on 4-20 in San Francisco, instead of heading to Hippie Hill, we head to Obama’s fundraising route. As the President’s limousine and the scores of motorcycle cops snake through the city, maybe we should line the streets with pot-smoking adults who are the face of marijuana today.
Instead of indulging our ability to gather and smoke, maybe we should take a chance and make ourselves known. In a city where it is already just like a parking ticket if you get busted smoking a joint, maybe for the others, we should link bongs and let our freak flags fly like the united pot nations we would like to be.
Wouldn’t it be perfect if President Obama gazed out his limousine’s smoke-tinted window to shiny shiny, happy, stoned people who come in all shapes and kinds but who all have one thing in common — they vote?
We’re lucky to live in San Francisco. I never moved out here in the Seventies to smoke pot. It just happened.
I appreciate where I live and what I have. I’m also aware of the others who aren’t as lucky, or who through no fault of their own except for the love of a certain herb, find themselves in less than desirable positions.
For the ones who can’t stand here and hold a joint proudly without major fear of prosecution and incarceration, that’s why we should line the streets. Remind Barack Obama that 43 million Americans ingest marijuana in one form or another.
The Tea Party have made their presence known; how hard can it be? Why can’t we?
San Francisco, is there a chance this could happen?

Photo: Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town correspondent Jack Rikess blogs from the Haight in San Francisco.

Jack Rikess, a former stand-up comic, writes a regular column
most directly found at jackrikess.com.

Jack delivers real-time coverage following the cannabis community, focusing on politics and culture.

His beat includes San Francisco, the Bay Area and Mendocino-Humboldt counties.

He has been quoted by the national media and is known for his unique view with thoughtful, insightful perspective.