How did 4/20 become the Worldwide International Weed day? Debates are ongoing, yet it is believed that it was the Waldos who created this infamous tradition. The nickname was used in the 1970s by 5 Californian friends who met on a daily basis at 4.20pm to smoke weed. Little did they know; they were starting a movement that would lead millions to gather annually on the 20th of April, get high and show their disapproval of the laws surrounding marijuana.
Whilst the UK maintains laws that cannabis is illegal to possess, grow, distribute or sell in the UK; the rally in London’s Hyde Park begs to differ. Every year on the special spring’s day, thousands of people gather in Central London to smoke. Some find it disgraceful, others disrespectful, but most view it as a political act of liberty. As for this year, the amount of people gathered in Kensington Palace’s garden has surpassed any other year with approximately 50 000 people present. Within this group you could find true diversity: everyone was welcome regardless of age, ethnicity and class, and a true sense of community was felt. This feeling was refreshing in a somewhat worrying time for Britain.
Whether you were rolling a royal roach or simply enjoying the sunny day, you were part of a rare vibe which brought everyone together. As newspapers reported that the event ‘may tolerate discreet smoking in designated areas of the park’, the thousands of joints continuously passed from strangers to friends proved differently. As the peak time of the day approached, many prepared to take part in the tradition of lighting a spliff at 4.20pm. When the clock hit the holy hour, the music went off, people sang, laughed and enjoyed their moment of free-will. Throughout this abnormally special day where the laws are bent, weed is permitted and smokers feel powerful and free, spread-out police forces showed an unimaginable amount of tolerance. With 0 arrests made, the officers were focused on protecting their citizens from danger whilst simultaneously staying passive to an activity which could’ve been persecuted.
However, this seems a bit too good to be true. As the law claims that possession of marijuana can be prosecuted and lead to 5 years in jail and an unlimited fine, an important question must be raised: why is the government allowing a massive illegal gathering to take place in the centre of the capital? Some may say that people are finally being listened to, others that by letting their people purge once a year, control is more efficient.
Yet, the huge economic growth in places such as California as marijuana has been legalised has demonstrated its undeniable benefits. As we live in a capitalist society, growth is the governments’ primary focus. The impact on tax revenue is enormous; California is thought to exceed 15 billion dollars revenue in sales and 3 billion in taxes. Not only will the taxes grow, but the creation of jobs in the marijuana industry is a big factor when taking the decision to change the laws. As these profits have come to light, Canada has followed in California’s footsteps and it seems that many are trailing that path. Justin Trudeau; the Canadian prime minister has claimed that legalising the drug will prevent criminals from making so much profit and instead raise 400m dollars in tax revenue. Could it be that the sense of freedom present at Hype Park’s cheeky annual gathering is but a capitalist strategy towards economic growth?
Whilst many may argue against this; it seems that the UK’s legalisation of medical marijuana coupled with the growing annual gatherings may show that we are closer to legalisation than we thought.
Words by Camille Giacomotto
(Feature Picture: Dinendra Haria/LNP)