Music from several bands and the words of pro-hemp activists mingled with swirling wisps of marijuana smoke in the air above Anisq’ Oyo’ Park on Easter Sunday.
Hempwise owner Al Espino, master of ceremonies and organizer of this year’s “420” gathering said the message of this year’s festival was the same as those before it: to inform people about the different uses for hemp and cannabis products. Espino said hemp and cannabis are an under-utilized source of paper, fiber, fuel, food and medicine.
“This plant needs to be free,” Espino said. “We need to be able to smoke it in public. They need to stop arresting us for doing something that doesn’t hurt anybody.”
Although the police kept a low profile, four citations were made for possession of marijuana and paraphernalia. Isla Vista Foot Patrol Lt. Tom McKinny said he and Espino discussed the event weeks ahead of time to prevent any unnecessary altercations.
“Most people were cooperating and not causing problems,” IVFP Deputy, who chose to be identified as “G” Moore, said. “[The perpetrators] were either lighting up right there [in front of me] or holding up baggies so that it was impossible not to notice.”
McKinny came to the park at 4:20 p.m., just as the crowd swelled to its peak of about 400.
“[The police] will cooperate without letting things get out of hand. It seems pretty peaceful,” he said.
Arty Mirzatuny, a freshman psychology major, was one of the many students to show up at 4:20 to enjoy the climax of the event.
“The cookies just taste better today, they taste like golden mellow,” he said.
The grass at Anisq’ Oyo’ Park was littered with tortillas, which had been thrown like Frisbees through the crowd during the festival. Rolin, a homeless Isla Vistan, also dispersed flower petals in the crowd, adding a splash of color to the tortilla-strewn grass.
A raffle was held to benefit the campus chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
“We’ve been on campus since I don’t know when,” NORML student representative Jeff Gelb said as he manned the NORML raffle table.
A variety of informational pamphlets was available at the NORML table, with subjects including the many uses of hemp, the effects marijuana has on the human body and even the Christian stance on the use of marijuana.
Espino said he altered the festival schedule slightly to accommodate the impact of the Christian Easter holiday.
“It was a big deliberation whether to have it on Easter, but 420 is not the same if it’s not on 4/20,” he said. “I’ll tell you one thing, it’s one of the best Easters I’ve ever had.”
Unlike other recent rallies in Anisq’ Oyo’ Park, the 420 festival took no political stance on anything except marijuana.
“This is an apolitical open festival for all to share,” said Espino. “The war on drugs is happening here, and there have been lives lost and people imprisoned.”