Despite the rain, thousands gathered in Hyde Park, London, UK to celebrate 420 and show their support for cannabis legalization and regulation. Cannabis enthusiasts were reminded of the illegality of their drug of choice upon entry to the park as signs stating that, “Possession of cannabis is illegal” and “Extra police on patrol in Hyde Park” were abundant. We even spotted a “Cannabis surrender bin.” Given that the 420 celebrators already know the legal status of cannabis, these warnings did not stop thousands from publicly lighting up throughout the day.
The London 420 Pro Cannabis Rally 2014 was organized in part by NORML UK, an advocacy group that strives to influence the positive transformation of laws to enable responsible medical, spiritual, recreational, and industrial uses in the UK, and provides support to those seeking the normalization of cannabis users. NORML UK was set up just outside Hyde Park for the duration of the celebrations to wish everyone a happy 420, spread awareness about their cause, and garner support both in the form of memberships and donations. I spent the day volunteering at their booth and speaking with many interested folks about the benefits of cannabis legalization and regulation. NORML UK also organized a host of speeches, however, due to technical difficulties and police resistance, most were not delivered.
Mass numbers of police were present in Hyde Park to monitor the 420 festivities. Although they largely left the smokers alone, there were some sightings of arrests, ticketing, and in one case, even physical assault. The primary complaint regarding police activities was that they did not allow NORML UK to distribute flyers and leaflets inside the park, stating that such promotional activities were not allowed inside the royal park. However, we did spot a promoter of religion inside the gates distributing materials, which was evidently overlooked by the police. Although they could have certainly behaved more aggressively towards the cannabis enthusiasts, we are still left wondering why our tax dollars were wasted on the mass police presence (at triple time no less given that it was Easter Sunday).
The celebrations culminated at 4:20 when cheers could be heard from the crowd of cannabis enthusiasts and thousands of joints were lit in protest of current cannabis laws.