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US: About 2,000 celebrate 420 pot day at UC Santa Cruz with increased policing
Santa Cruz Sentinel
Friday 20 Apr 2018
The second-year UC Santa Cruz student was about to celebrate 420 — an annual custom at 4:20 p.m. on April 20 that some call “Weed Day” — with roughly 2,000 peers at the Porter Meadow on Friday afternoon. But he and many others received citations on a state law prohibiting smoking pot in public, within 1,000 feet from a school, recreation center or youth center unless it happens in a residence. The law prohibits anyone from smoking marijuana, even if they have a medical card, on a school bus, in a vehicle that is being operated or while operating a boat.
“Last year, it definitely wasn’t as eventful as this,” Kaye said as he held the ticket he expected to be a $250-$500 expense. “I’m going to get a notice in the mail, or my parents will. They live in LA. My dad probably will be a little disappointed.”
While Proposition 64 legalized recreational marijuana in California on Jan. 1, it has no bearing on UC Santa Cruz rules.
UCSC is a smoke- and drug-free campus, according to signs placed throughout the meadow.
“Attention! Are you aware you are within 1000’ of a child care facility on Porter Meadows?” a sign warned.
Shortly after, near the edge of the crowd, a police officer stood with about four others in black uniforms.
“This is a non-smoking campus,” the officer told a second-year math education major who declined to be named.
The young man said 80 percent of the students know it’s illegal to smoke on campus.
“It wasn’t like this last year, the young man said of what he considered an uptick in citations.
None of the officers approached were willing to speak to the press on the record about the brief, intoxicating event. They surrounded the loud, jubilant gathering in the sunny meadow. Officers gathered in small teams and watched from the outskirts. The Sentinel counted about 40 peace officers in uniform. One was on a dirt bike. Another had a black SUV patrolling the area and parking occasionally.
This year’s crowd was about 30 percent the size of last year’s, when there were no citations issued for marijuana-related offenses, UC Santa Cruz police reported.
UCSC Police Chief Nader Oweis said “dozens of citations” were issued Friday by a team of 100 officers from UC campuses statewide, local law enforcement agencies and California Highway Patrol.
“We wrote citations for everything, from distracted driving, vehicle and pedestrian violations to people smoking marijuana in public, smoking marijuana in a no-smoking zone, smoking marijuana within 1,000 feet of a day-care center, being under 21 and smoking marijuana,” Oweis said.
Hundreds of vehicles went through a checkpoint at Empire Grade and Heller Drive on campus. Highway Patrol made four DUI arrests.
The event was smaller and shorter-lived than recent years’, Oweis said.
“Everybody I’m talking to said it was smaller,” he said.
The “hope,” he said, was for the event to be winnowed down from the all-day revelry some have partaken on campus in the past.
“Most people came between 3:45 and 4 (p.m.),” Oweis said. Most left by 4:30, he added.
“That’s what we want,” Oweis said. “In years past, we had people out there all day, intoxicated to the point they needed medical aid. We had lots of fights, lots of problems.”
Only one participant needed medical assistance Friday. Oweis declined to discuss the nature of that aid.
The festivities weren’t sobering for all students, however.
Jeremy Hernandez, 21, pinched two large brown blunts in his right hand as he pulled a drag and talked about the peaceful celebration.
“Look at all these people. There’s nothing bad happening right now,” said Hernandez, who studies psychology. “Everyone is happy. Everyone is positive.”
A second-year UCSC student from Long Beach named Sean, who declined to provide his last name, held a large white lit joint he alternated smoking and offering to others.
“Despite the fact that it’s something wrong legally, we can accept that it makes us feel good, that it makes us feel happy,” Sean said. “Look at all these people, man. When is the last time you saw this many people so happy, together in one place on the news? It doesn’t (expletive) happen.”
Marijuana, he said, is “an amazing thing.”
“It chills people down. It puts everything into perspective: And right now, that’s about hanging out and enjoying the sunshine,” Sean said. “There are definitely more cops today though. The only guy I saw get arrested last year was the guy who brought the 1-pound joint.”
A few feet away in the crowd, a young man leaned back his head, closed his eyes and inhaled from two joints pressed in his mouth, exhaling thick smoke into the cloud above.
Another group of three revelers were being ordered by police to show their IDs. It was approaching 4:20 p.m., when cheers sounded through the meadow.
The crowd dissipated about 15 minutes later.
As the departure began, third-year economics major Elliot Spector, 23, was selling Fruit by the Foot, Doritos, Cheetos and bottled water for $1 each. And business was good.
“The closer it was to 4:20, the busier things got,” Spector said.
His business partner, Jackson Patrick-Sternin, a 21-year-old film major, said the munchies were setting in for many revelers.
“The high demand, I think it has something to do with the haze washing over us right now,” Patrick-Sternin said.
The Rice Krispies Treats and the Fruit by the Foot were the best sellers, Spector said.
“Nobody wants chips,” Spector said. “When I get high, I need my savories.”
A young man was having a serious conversation with a police officer nearby about “mass incarceration” as other young adults were stumbling and giggling in the grass on their way back to Porter College and elsewhere.
“I’m a lightweight,” a young man said.
“Happy 420,” his friend replied.
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