Hundreds gather for 4/20 about a year after New York lawmakers legalized recreational marijuana
A vendor holds up a sign to attract customers at Washington Square Park. Credit: Chantal Vaca for NY City Lens (April 20, 2022).
Washington Square Park could’ve been mistaken for a music festival venue on Tuesday. Crowds of people surrounded the central fountain, clouds of smoke rose from every direction and music blared from DJ speakers.
At noon, the park was relatively quiet. Several vendors encircled the fountain and were prepared to stay until sunset. Each table carried a variation of the same product: pre-rolls, edibles and pre-packed bags of weed. The types of edibles that some vendors carried extended beyond the traditional brownie. One vendor sold THC-infused Takis and Funyuns, and another sold THC-infused Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Cannabis wasn’t the only merchandise for sale — there were offerings from hand-dyed and screen printed shirts to rings designed to hold a joint.
Closer to 4:20 p.m. the park was packed. Marijuana was – as you would expect – everywhere, and it could be obtained without having to spend a single buck. One table gave away free joints in exchange for a follow on Instagram as a way to promote a local rapper. Others got lucky and found unopened bags of eighths littered on the ground.
This was New York’s second 4/20 since the use of recreational cannabis was legalized in the state. Technically, smoking weed in New York City parks is not permitted, just like smoking cigarettes, but on Tuesday, police did not enforce that rule in Washington Square Park. Earlier in the day, police strolled through before the crowds arrived. Once people engulfed the park, the police presence was unnoticeable.
For some New Yorkers, like Max Roa, who has been arrested for carrying weed, spending 4/20 in the park with a large plastic bag filled with several grams was representative of how far its decriminalization and de-stigmatization has come in New York.
“I’ve been arrested 72 times, and 60 of those arrests have been because of the stop-and-frisk, and they have caught me over little nick[el] bags and dime bags,” said Roa.
In 2013, a federal judge found NYPD’s “Stop-and-Frisk” policy unconstitutional after overwhelming evidence suggested that it was used as a method for racially profiling and harassing Black and Latino citizens.
“To be out here and actually have a backpack full of weed and brownies and like nobody’s giving a fuck? It’s amazing. I love it. I wish 4/20 was everyday,” said Roa.