On 4/20 (That’s 20/4 to us Brits) the world gathers to celebrate cannabis. The day is marked by numerous gatherings across the globe, from London to Berlin to Vancouver and hundreds of other parks and locations people came together to celebrate cannabis and cannabis lifestyle.
I’ve been attending the Hyde Park celebrations for around 5 years, but they have been happening a lot longer than that. Ever since the late 60’s, people have been gathering in the park in protest, and in recent years the event has grown synonymous with 420, and arrests have dropped to zero (now two years running).
What started with no organisation now has several groups taking an active interest in coordinating the day – the UKCSC have an information stand with signup sheets for people to get involved with the campaign. The High Club London set up a sound stage which is now the centrepiece of the gathering, which this year extended right up to the lake.
And several stands and stalls are set up by businesses in the cannabis industry who go to promote their wares including hemp products, CBD, head shop supplies and more. People can find information on cannabis, see new cannabis products and chat to like-minded people also attending Hyde Park London 420.
This year was the busiest Hyde Park 420 celebration to date!
Two things came together beautifully for 4/20 this year. Firstly, for the first time in 6 years that the day has fallen on a weekend. Secondly, the sun was shining all day, presenting perfect weather for the celebration. It was perfect park weather anyway, so a lot of extra people probably made it down to Hyde Park on that basis alone, or were persuaded by friends to come and join in with the festivities.
And festivities there were. This was easily the biggest cannabis event the UK has seen to date. Not only was it the biggest gathering of cannabis consumers, it was probably the most weed smoked in one place at one time to date as well. An estimated 30,000+ people showing mass civil disobedience and celebrating their cannabis consumption should go down in history.
Some of the positivity generated by the event is marred somewhat by criticism of event attendees for the litter left behind (something that was initially incorrectly blamed on the Extinction Rebellion) which is the thing that has gone viral, rather than put out the positive story about such a large group of us coming together. The same thing happened last year which was previously the biggest celebration.
People are quick to criticise, especially in the comments via social media, and even more if they aren’t at these events. We can be our own worse enemy – quick to generate the media that will be shared by prohibitionists and used to smear and sneer at us as “messy cannabis consumers”, when in fact my local park, several beaches and many other locations across the UK looked in a similar state the next day due to the hot weather and people not throwing their rubbish away the day before. It says something about humanity that people leave so much rubbish behind, but it is not the fault of the plant we are campaigning for, which is the opinion of some commenters:
I am not defending the mess, and think that we do need to be better at organising clear-ups for large scale events. All bins were completely full, but that is not an excuse to just leave stuff in the middle of the field. The police move everybody on suddenly around 5pm, but people still should not just leave their rubbish behind. It reflects badly on individuals who litter, but we cannot let it be reflective on the cannabis community as a whole, or on the day of the year where we get to celebrate being cannabis consumers. Remember how they try to shut down Notting Hill Carnival and how the community responds by not allowing it.
And also let’s look to the smaller events run around the Country who were conscious about leaving the event space how they found it for ideas on how to keep the litter well-managed.
Vancouver this year saw over 100,000 people in attendance (about 3x Hyde Park London!), and that is after legalisation. So as events like 420 will always happen, they need to think about enabling attendees to keep their space clean as effectively as possible.
When you go to Hyde Park London for 420, the best way to go into the park is via Marble Arch, as this brings you right to the side of the event protest. Some attendees with flowers in pockets opt to come in via Leicester Square, Hyde Park Corner or several other access points within walking distance in London, but I have found Marble Arch is generally the best bet.
Marble Arch this year was also the sight of the Extinction Rebellion protests so coming out of the station presented a wonderful sight of people camping in the road and blocking traffic access to demand urgent action on climate change, and a notable lack of police officers.
I arrived at the event at around 10:30 am when it was still reasonably quiet. Over the next few hours, it began to get incredibly busy, with wall to wall people as far as the eye can see from Speakers Corner in Hyde Park.
At 4:20 pm everybody stops what they’re doing and lights something up – ranging from regular size joints to cannons weighing in excess of 28 grams. When the clock hits 4:20 a cloud of smoke rises above the crowd and everybody cheers. It is beautiful.
And that is what 4/20 is all about. It’s simple really – we want to consume our cannabis without being discriminated against and a mass protest each year gets the message across that there are a tremendous amount of people who like cannabis out there
Numbers like this matter, and if we stepped up the pace and protested in this way more often we would likely see the change we all seek in how cannabis consumers are treated in society. Our “protests” are all-too-often simply fun-filled cannabis events, that while raising some awareness will have little impact on legalisation.
There were zero arrests yet again, showing that we really are a peaceful bunch (an unrelated stabbing was reported at 4.40 at Hyde Park Corner Station which is the opposite side and a considerable walk from the event). And the lack of police bodies compared to previous years shows just how stretched thin they are – surely cannabis legalisation would help take some of that weight off eh commissioner?
So let’s continue to campaign for change. We have the numbers and
the time is ripe for bigger protests – 2020 marks the first time we’ll have an entire month (April 1st-April 30th is 04-2020) so expect the events to be big and get yourselves to Hyde Park 4/20 2020
Did you attend Hyde Park or another 420 celebration this year? Tweet us @ISMOKEMEDIA
Watch our 4/20 video here on the ISMOKE YouTube Channel
You can read our coverage of last year’s 420 event in Hyde Park here
And watch our video from Hyde Park back in 2017 here
Cover photo by Hong Pongtong. Thanks to Matt Glassman for helping us to cover this year’s 420 event.
And this is what it looked like from behind the stage – what a crowd!