Since I have been involved with cannabis activism the biggest excuse I have heard for people not getting involved or showing their true selves to others around them is because they don’t want to be the only one, the odd one out and get in trouble with work, family or the police – something perfectly reasonable to understand. The problem with this though is it is too many people’s attitudes and the longer we all try and stay in the shadows the longer we will be waiting for someone else to step into the light. Everyone has been waiting for each other to do this. Hyde Park 4-20-2013 should now have changed that.
420 has been celebrated around the world for over 2 decades now and it shows no signs of slowing down by any stretch of the imagination. In California back in the 60s a group of high school kids in San Raphael would meet up at 4:20pm after extra curricula and sports training and this is when they would smoke. 4:20 became the recognised time to light up. One of the original members of the gang, The Waldos, took this 4:20 tradition on tour with him when he became a roadie for The Grateful Dead. Deadheads then took that tradition on and gave us the 420 culture that we see today, celebrated on April 20th as it is the 20th day of the 4th month. Like Christmas and new year rolled into one, but we celebrate cannabis and share it with our friends.
Saturday though, had just about all the perfect ingredients to make what this year’s 420 became in England. After a shockingly long winter that has reached pretty much right through April the sun made it’s first “I’m here” appearance of the year signalling the start to what we hope to be a summer packed full of cannabis events to show that this was not just a one off fluke. So thanks to the fact that people were fed up with being locked indoors out of the cold, it was a Saturday and it was also good for basking – everyone decided to blaze.
By 1pm there were a couple of hundred people gathering by speaker’s corner running parallel to the Kensington Road. Multiple sets of loud speakers playing dub, reggae, hip hop and chill out music added to the atmosphere nicely while the little groups started to grow as more people turned up. NORML UK and UKCSC had quite a large circle by this point coming from all parts of the country from Dorset to Northamptonshire, Cambridge to Devon and West Midlands to Berkshire and not to forget those that travelled from Wales and Yorkshire.
As it got closer to 4:20 the crowd just kept expanding and it was not just at Speakers Corner any more, people were assembling right the way past the fountains and spilling out onto the main fielded areas. Thanks to Macebook Industries Bigger Society Sound System I was able to give a quick speech just before 4:20 saying why we are gathered here and to get out the message that we are all in this together and need to continue sharing the truth and making ourselves seen and heard like this. Getting to shout about cannabis down a microphone blaring out of some speakers felt really good. To be able to say that 2 states in America have legalised for all adults and medical use because the people got out and showed their support to the campaigns that are taking place felt right and the reception proved the feeling was mutual – we have put up with the intolerance and inequality for far too long. Cannabis is a medicine for many people, including myself. Although cannabis use is wide spread in the UK a lot less know about the medicinal side of it so it was important to get this message out also, hopefully it will inspire them to go home and look it up some time – in any case a seed has been planted and that’s what I finished off telling people to do, grow their own, stop putting their money into the hands of organised crime and to build a better understanding of the herb.
The attendance was extremely diverse; people from all cultures were all congregated with no prejudice against each other, intermingling, sharing herb, joints, pipes, chillums and light saber bongs. From dreads to skinheads, old age Hindu men and even parents with their children on more of the outskirts, still enjoying the fun and showing their children that, yeah this is very normal and very acceptable and nothing to be ashamed of or scared to do. This has however drawn negative attention in the mainsteam media not thinking that parents might be able to consume cannabis and still look after their children – no one complains if people have a sip of alcohol around children. There were people drinking beer and wine also – so what’s the difference if you aren’t causing anyone else a problem?
This was a massive audience and showed perfectly why we need to expand away from being such a predominantly Facebook based activist network. Most of the people who came did so because they were local enough and had been invited to come by their friends that were already there of finding out about it by chance. 5000+ people did say they were going on the Facebook page event and there was easily that many people there and most probably double that number. Seeing how densely packed it was and over such a wide area that stretched on it is not unlikely that it was 10,000.
Smoking cannabis in not actually a crime in the UK and nor is having it in your system, but possessing it, selling, and growing falls under the remit of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Despite this people still came out and part took in the mass display of civil disobedience and to such an extent people were probably getting a residual high from walking in a 200meter radius, the lingering aroma in the air honestly went further. This came to particular disgust of one of our most livid of haters, Peter Hitchens who is now much more aware of the force that is London Cannabis Club – he even points out in his blog that there isn’t much point in arresting us and other than a few minor incidents the day was as London Cannabis Club tweeted, a huge success. To him the laws were flaunted and the police didn’t do enough about it, yet the world didn’t end and everyone went home much happier than they would have been. Does he think that it would have been worth spending a fortune on fines and arrests, giving the police way too much non essential work which could be taking away attention and resources from much more serious crimes.
There was of course some police presence at the free public party, several times police cars and 4x4s drove through to remind people that they were there. No fights broke out, and there was no bad behaviour going on at all. The only negative aspects of the day I have heard was one of the Essex Cannabis Club members was mugged on his way to the event and also there have been reports of a stabbing but this was away from the event also and there is nothing to say this was in connection to 420, especially when taking into account that there are on average 12 stabbings that result in injury per day in London. Towards 6pm a police helicopter gave a show with some low flying also. The occasional siren would come racing past and it was the only thing to stop me feeling like I was in America 2 years ago when I celebrated 420 in Denver, Colorado.
When the sirens did go, I will admit it made my heart race a little and made me think, this isn’t Denver no matter how comfortable and good it felt, but I was definitely living the day like it was legal. Two years ago on this day i was in Denver with about 20,000 people doing the same thing not having to worry about anything. My bong was in my hand for most of the day and I smoked out as many people as I could, my aim was to show people what good cannabis looks, smells, tastes and feels like. Under prohibition many do not know what good ganja is until they come across it and these events are perfect for educating people in this way and a good way to put half an ounce of Steel City Blues, Jack The Ripper and Pineapple Express to use. To be able to exercise my right to walk around London with my Roor in my hand felt great, it opens minds and breaks through barriers – if I’m not hurting anybody or myself, let me smoke cannabis.
Before next years 420 event in Hyde Park it would be nice if things could be a little more organised and have some kind of officialdom to it. Because it falls on a Sunday it would be great if we could have the whole weekend to celebrate, have a central focal point and arrange for some Djs and a couple of bands with people speaking to get that vibe just right. We could even set up some stalls to have people selling things. This would allow us to raise some proceeds for the clubs. It will allow us to reach more people and pull in a wider audience – the turn out certainly warrants for it. I for one would feel better about that because we could makes sure the park was cleaned and left the way we found it. When there is no organisation no one is there to take responsibility, we cannot expect the councils to let us back if we leave it in a state even if they do employ park caretaker’s fulltime. Respect is a two way thing and if everyone cleans up around them it is no big task. If as cannabis consumers we preach to be conscious we must practise that.
What is transparent is the need to continue from this great start to the summer. In a little under 2 weeks we have the Cardiff Global Cannabis March on May 4th where we will rally through the city with our signs to again show our presence followed by a similar smoke out will happen at the end if it hasn’t already started. Two weeks after this in Bristol at The Malcolm X Community Centre on the 18/19th May is the NORML UK first annual AGM and conference, where Howard Marks (Mr Nice) will be giving a special performance as well as the chance to see some inspirational speakers that are united with UKCSC and NORML UK in ending the unjust war on cannabis consumers. These speakers include Annie Machon MI5 agent. A month after this is the Malvern Hills Summer Solstice Gathering 2013 on the Friday 21st June which has one of the most beautiful views in the country and is out the way of interrupting those not joining. I expect to see many drum circles!
Lastly I would like to give a massive shout out to all the UKCSC admins that made the journey to London from Dorset, Devon, West Midlands, London, Essex, Cardiff, Berkshire, Milton Keynes, Hampshire, West Yorkshire, Wakefield, Derby, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Birmingham and I am sorry if I have not remembered you but it was a hazy day!
Please make sure we see you at the Cardiff Global Marijuana March on the 4th of May (see video of last years here) with your banners, signs and spliffs to show Wales that we are back and this year we came bigger! It really will be a fun filled day and you will have the chance to get some fantastic prizes in raffles and meet likeminded cannabis consumers that you might become a lifelong friend with – a friend with weed is a friend indeed. Howard Marks will probably be making an appearance at this also so keep your eyes on the new www.news.ukcsc.co.uk website and subscribe for updates to your e-mail.