Crime & the Law

4/20. Thousands converge on Hyde Park for International Cannabis Day

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Marijuana enthusiast preparing a spliff at Hyde Park. Image: Simon Scott

April 20, 2017 may seem like any working normal day for the people of central London.

But for the few who had the day free – or decided to call in sick – its a day for those who partake in smoking Cannabis to celebrate by getting High in Hyde Park.

April 20 – or 4/20 as its come to be known – is the date every year when Marijuana enthusiasts around the world celebrate their favourite green herb.

Last years meet up in London’s Hyde Park saw nearly five thousand smokers stream through the Queen Elizabeth Gate to light up.

This year’s result may have exceeded expectation.

The meet up – which is held every year on April twentieth – is a mass gathering for the UK’s Cannabis smoking culture.

But what is 4/20, where does it come from and why is it celebrated?

The date or the code 4/20 is synonymous with drug culture., but for those who aren’t in the know it can all seem a bit hazy.

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The crowds gather for International Cannabis day in Hyde Park. Image: Simon Scott

There are several stories behind how the term became so synonymous with International Cannabis day or where 4/20 originally came from.

According to, 4/20 quite simply translates to “weed”.

Then again it could also derive from the Governor of California signing that state’s Senate Bill 420, which regulates marijuana used for medical purposes on January 1, 2004.

One popular urban legend maintains that the term originated because there are 420 chemical compounds found in cannabis.

Many people have their own theories that get passed around their smoking circles.

However, most of the smokers I spoke to believe that the original coining of the phrase 4/20 was created by five young men in America in the early 1970’s.

Truthfully, it started with The Waldos, a group of five friends who were students at San Rafael High School, California.

The group would meet at 4:20pm where the weed-loving student would light up after classes.

The Waldos created the phrase as a code to say to each other if they were going to meet up to smoke pot after school.


“Statue of Louis Pasteur at San Rafael High School” by Sapphic – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia

Eventually, their secret code 4/20 is said to have moved beyond their pot-smoking circles by the phrase being associated with the band The Grateful Dead.

The fans of the band took the term on as their own and spread it across the United States.

After years of the term taking on its own identity, its grown across the world so much that it has its own international recognition.

London’s answer to 4/20 was much more than I expected.

Thousands upon thousands of people had gather to smoke spliffs, eat cannabis edibles, play music and socialise on mass in an act of civil disobedience.

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Cannabis Chocolates were handed about by budding chefs. Image: Simon Scott

People were gathering in their numbers to light up with their friends and strangers from as early as 11 am.

The Brighton Cannabis Club has placed a stand on a clearing in Hyde Park near the entrance parallel to Marlybone Underground Station, which soon became the epicentre of the crowd.

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The Brighton Cannabis Club demonstrating in Hyde Park on 4/20. Image: Simon Scott

The group were handing out flyers promoting legalisation of the drug, to raise awareness about its benefits to mental health and to dance to the music blaring from portable speakers.

Many small circles of people began to gather around on the ground as various celebrities were spotted around the park and asked to take a picture or join for a smoke.

Several Grime artists had announced they were performing for free for their fans.

Many clustered around Mc’s as they rapped surrounded by people trying to catch a word of their rhymes or to get a picture.

A pair of women were giving away psychedelic colouring books.

Others simply showed up just to showoff their rolling skills

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Man takes a large drag of his spliff. Image: Simon Scott

However the days shenanigans had not gone unnoticed by the local authorities.

As the day trickled closer to 4.20pm, the internationally recognised time for lighting up a joint, more and more people were entering this section of the park.

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Police organisers the public outside Hyde Park during 4/20. Image: Simon Scott

It looked more like the British Summer time festival than a Thursday afternoon in late April.

As 4:20pm began to tick down, the large crowd stood in unison and let out a cheer as the time struck.

The cheers were greeted by a large plume of smoke that rose up above the crowds, creating a haze around the park.

Is Smoking Weed legal in the UK?

The Home Office states that:

“It remains illegal for UK residents to possess cannabis in any form.”

Growing, possessing or distributing the Class B drug is against the law, but some councils in the UK don’t pursue those who use cannabis for “personal use”.

The maximum punishment for cannabis use is give years in prison and an unlimited fine.

Cases of dealing or trafficking drugs can lead to convictions of up to 14 years in prison”.


Police gather around the crowds on International Cannabis day in Hyde Park. Image: Simon Scott

The celebration of 4.20 and its association with Weed is now becoming more widely legitimized.

The United States has begun to hop on the bandwagon to legalise Marijuana — it’s legal in some form in 23 states, plus Washington D.C.

It remains to be seen whether the UK will chose to legalise Marijuana use and possession for medicinal or recreational purposes.

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Smoker taking a drag of a spliff. Image: Simon Scott

But one thing is for certain, the smoking community will be rolling up in Hyde park for 4/20 regardless.

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