On Easter Sunday, thousands of cannabis smokers will descend on Hyde Park in London for a smoke in celebration of “420 Day”.
Now held annually on 20 April, 420 Day began life as an American pro-cannabis movement, but in recent years has become a de facto “world pot-smoking day”.
Last year, according to the event’s organisers, around 10,000 people congregated in the most famous of London’s royal parks to protest in favour of legalisation. With a bumper bank holiday weekend, a delightful spring and 420 Day chatter spreading like wildfire across social networks, they expect the attendance this year to be even higher.
For the cannabis community, it is the highlight of the year, a day when Britain’s 60-plus cannabis social clubs encourage members, friends and the curious to stand up and be counted. Or at least to “sit around, have a few joints, a picnic and a discussion”, as Greg de Hoedt, president of UK Cannabis Social Clubs (UKCSC), describes the plan.
Centred on Speaker’s Corner, 420 Day is an exercise in civil disobedience, rather than an authorised protest. It begins at noon, with live music and speakers, before the high point – in both senses – at 4.20pm, when thousands will light up simultaneously and send a plume of sickly sweet smoke wafting across Hyde Park and Park Lane.
For many, it is an alternative day out. “I don’t smoke any more as I’m a dad,” says 43-year-old first-time attendee Johnnie, from Crystal Palace. “But I am pro-legalisation, so I’m going to show my support.”