Whatever Happened to 4/20 at Redwood Park?


Photo by Bob Doran – Follow him on Facebook or Instagram

With April gone – 4/20 in the past – and nothing but hazy memories left, Humboldt Underground staff began to contemplate the “holiday.” We’ve all heard of its 1970’s origin: five Waldos from San Rafael High, athletes who met after practice everyday at 4:20pm to look for a secret abandoned garden near Point Reyes, blazing joints all the while. We know this now popularized origin and we have grown up with its inference. We all jokingly show each other our clocks (phones) when its 4:20pm, laugh, and move on with our day.

Here in Humboldt County, most feel like its always 4/20 (or 4:20pm), no big deal. Yet, nationally 4/20 is a serious holiday. Like turkey on Thanksgiving, weed is big business on 4/20. Some estimate that cannabis sales increase 20% to 25% from April 17th to the 20th. That’s tens of millions of dollars, which is no laughing matter when it comes to business. Throw in tax revenue and 4/20, as a holiday, is big business for areas that can capitalize.

Even though 4/20 brings increased revenue, the “holiday” does come with disobedience. A form of protest called smoke-ins – similar but not to be confused with sit-ins – have become commonplace in cannabis friendly cities throughout the U.S. (usually taking place on 4/20). Smoke-ins – most likely derived from sit-ins – are a form of direct action that involves one or more peoples occupying an area of protest where (and this is where smoke-ins differ from sit-ins) participants smoke weed. This phenomenon has taken place throughout the U.S. and even in Canada.

Just this year, massive smoke-ins took place in San Francisco and Vancouver. Tens of thousands gathered – most likely to be apart of a trend and less likely be apart of a protest.

They came. They blazed. They went. They left debris for city workers to clean, a hand full dabbed themselves into an ambulance, and ultimately the event cost taxpayers money. Both municipalities, Vancouver and San Francisco included, vowed not to let the event to take place in 2017. Both these smoke-ins, innocent in their inception, were unpermitted and unsanctioned, most likely due to their protest origins.

(Insert any record player/DJ scratch noise here)

4/20 at the park anyone! Does this remind anyone of 4/20 at Redwood Park in Arcata (CA) prior to 2010?

No one knows the origins (most likely someone does, please chime in if you do) but 4/20 at the (Redwood) Park was a big deal come the late 00’s. I mean look at these pictures if you weren’t there:



Photos by Bob Doran – Follow him on Facebook or Instagram

In a 2008 article titled Four and Twenty Stoners, Baked in The North Coast Journal by the one and only Bob Doran, he quotes an event goer:

“Humboldt County is the capital of cannabis for North America, like Vancouver B.C. is for Canada. Arcata draws a crowd. People know that this is where to come to celebrate, where you’re not going to get punished by the authorities. The police are not going to come out and bust all these people. They might in Seattle; I’ve been busted in my hometown for simple possession of herb. I see this as a peaceful protest, where we can show that we are passionate about something that’s not quite completely accepted yet.”

People came from far and wide to witness 4/20 at Redwood Park. 4/20 at Redwood Park was a cannabis event to attend. The people who came subsequently ate, drank, and attend various music/cannabis culture events throughout Humboldt. Arcata bustled around 4/20 in the late 00’s.


Blackalicious at Cannifest 2016

Nowadays, things have changed. Colorado and Washington have legalized cannabis – stealing the party (and revenue…) – while Arcata and Redwood Park officials cracked down on 4/20, shutting down the park to fertilize (no pun) the grass (starting back in 2011).

Talking with the community, 4/20 seemed to be a bigger deal prior to 2010. Arcata used to see an influx of people – some undesirable – around the “holiday.” Arcata made money – not without problems. The event drew some “undesirables” but nothing exceedingly abnormal. No different than Halloween, which has a similar turn out in Arcata.

Maybe the smoke-in at Redwood Park lost its protest origins. Maybe us locals are just over 4/20 – it’s cliché – I get it! Maybe Redwood Park wasn’t the best location. But, at the very least, the socio-economic opportunity of the holiday, and the potential revenue, should stimulate local business and government to at least brainstorm the possibilities.

Could 4/20 at the Redwood Park been turned into a win-win? Could the event been moved, sanctioned, and permitted – ultimately turning the smoke-in into an economic opportunity to stimulate business and fill the coffers? Should of, could of, would of… maybe its not too late or maybe everyday is 4/20 in Humboldt. It just burns a lil to see other cities steal our fire…



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