Weed-loving Brits flock to London’s Hyde Park and celebrate getting stoned at 4/20

4/20 Day – the annual celebration of recreational cannabis use – is being marked by a “legalize it” rally in London’s Hyde Park.

The gatherings have been going – lockdowns permitting – for several years now and generally the Metropolitan Police have maintained a fairly “light touch” attitude to proceedings, only stepping in when scuffles have broken out or when serious lawbreaking has been detected.

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson told the Daily Star: “It’s important that people have the right to peacefully protest, it is also important that there are consequences for those who break the law.

“Officers will focus efforts on people committing serious offenses.

“However drug misuse is breaking the law and individuals using drugs, even if peacefully protesting, cannot expect to be exempt from policing.”

Weed fans dressed for the occasion

Marwan Elgamal, founder of lifestyle brand THC, claims that he has been assured that the Met do not intend to arrest anyone who’s just sparking up a single zoot.

He told Vice News: “Everyone’s tired of hearing that [cannabis is] not legal so we kind of act like it is – especially since there is a medical legal format now.

“This year is the first time [the police] have said to me in our [4/20 planning] meeting that they will not be arresting anyone who is peacefully protesting and not causing any trouble. ”

The gathering is in support of cannabis legalization
The gathering is in support of cannabis legalization

There are myriad theories about how 4/20 day got its name: It’s police radio code for a marijuana bust, it’s Hitler’s birthday, it’s the number of active elements in cannabis, or it’s a complex piece of numerology to do with a 1966 Bob Dylan song.

The truth is more unlikely than all of those.

In the early 1970s a group of students from San Rafael High School in California, who called themselves The Waldos, heard that a bunch of abandoned marijuana plants was to be found somewhere on the California coast and they agreed to meet up after school to go and find them. The agreed time for the meeting was twenty past four.

They never actually found the plants but they got into the habit of meeting at 4.20pm most days to smoke a joint under the school’s statue of medical pioneer Louis Pasteur.

Over half of Brits now support cannabis legalization
Over half of Brits now support cannabis legalization

Davd Reddix, a founding member of the Waldos explained that from there “4/20” became their “secret code” to talk about weed “in front of our parents, cops, teachers… everybody”.

From that beginning, the term has become recognized internationally and on April 20 every year – 4/20 in the American date format – weed smokers celebrate an annual “holiday”.

Since cannabis was legalized in certain US states, it’s all become the biggest day for legal sellers — the Black Friday of cannabis.

Police officers stand guard in Hyde Park

In 2020 sales during the week running up to April 20 were in excess of $ 126million (£ 96m) across six states tracked by data firm BDSA.

Forbes reports that the US cannabis industry, which reported record annual sales of $ 17.5 billion (£ 13.4bn) in 2020 is expected to be a $ 41bn (£ 31.4bn) a year industry by 2025.

A growing proportion of the UK population is also keen to legalize the weed.

A 2021 survey from YouGov which asked a representative sample of British adults whether they would support or oppose the legalization of cannabis in the UK, 52% of people replied saying they either ‘strongly supported’ or ‘tended to support’ legalization, while 32% opposed and 15% said they did not know.

For any Star readers thinking of heading out to their local park to enjoy the sunshine and support legalization, we’d remind them that as far as the Home Office is concerned “it remains illegal for UK residents to possess cannabis in any form”.

The maximum punishment for cannabis possession is five years in prison and an unlimited fine.

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