It's illegal to smoke marijuana in Golden Gate Park -- and the Park Patrol will cite you for this "major issue."
Tell yourself this, the next time you stroll into the park at Stanyan and Haight near the McDonald's, past the touts offering marijuana for sale, heading through the tunnel toward Hippie Hill where there's yet more marijuana for sale, and toward the drum circle where there's -- now hold on -- even more marijuana for sale and openly smoked 365 days a year.
Color us surprised -- the same color as the International Cannabis and Hemp Expo, which had its application to host its annual fete in the park's Hellman Hollow rejected by the Recreation and Park Department last week.
Medical marijuana or not, smoking's not allowed in the park, according to Rec and Park staffers. And how can you have a medical marijuana/hemp/cannabis lifestyle event without some smoking? You cannot, which brings us to the current impasse.
The International Cannabis & Hemp Expo (INTCHE) is in its own words a "public education event," at which speakers speak, vendors vend, and everything you would normally expect at a convention or expo is done. Except mostly everyone is high. Really, really high.
Which is fine: Two events in 2010 at the Cow Palace and one in downtown Oakland in 2011 appeared to go off with nary a (major) discouraging word. Folks "medicated" in a designated area for holders of a doctor's recommendation, which could be gleaned onsite for $50 or less. Unlike the rest of the park, marijuana is NOT for sale -- and indeed, if you were a vendor and you were caught slanging at the September event, you received a quick heave-ho from on-site private security.
The problem is that smoking of any substance -- cigarette or cigar, blunt or bowl of banana peels -- is outright forbidden in San Francisco parks. Article 191 of the city's Health Code bans "inhaling, exhaling, burning or carrying any lighted smoking equipment for tobacco or any other weed or plant" in any city park.
This means that the 15,000 people expected at INTCHE are not welcome in Golden Gate Park.
"We have had major issues with other Cannabis events in our park and violations. This would be a major issue," wrote Recreation and Parks Department facilities manager Dana Ketcham on Feb. 10, in denying the permit. "If we could find a way around the smoking issue, the only site that I think might work is Civic Center as it is hardscape. You might also have to do some street closures to accommodate your size. But I think that the prohibition on smoking in parks will make this not possible to do."
Applicant Kim Cue, a "cryogenic chemical engineer" and all-around fine human being, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment from SF Weekly.
This is not a joke at the expense of organized, permit-paying marijuana advocates, according to Connie Chan, a Recreation and Park spokeswoman. "Park Patrol [the local authority] does cite anyone violating the ordinance," Chan told SF Weekly on Wednesday, though she was not immediately sure how stringently the health code is enforced in Golden Gate Park by the Park Patrol but that any citation statistics would not differentiate between busts for cigs or joints.
There is a possible alternative in San Francisco for INTCHE, Ketcham suggested: "Have you explored Fort Mason, as it has multiple facilities and it is not a city park," she wrote.
Even better: Fort Mason is in fact federal land. Wonder how the feds feel about pot use?
Follow us on Twitter at @SFWeekly and @TheSnitchSF