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Learn the History Behind Hyde Park and 420

hyde park
Written by Joseph Mcqueen

The 20th of April might be just another day for some people, but for others, it’s the greatest darn holiday of the year. Cannabis Christmas is on its way! A time for cannabis-lovers to come together and unite behind a joint belief. One date of the year where people who support that sweet Mary Jane can come out of their hotboxed rooms and be free. In other words, 420 is incoming. 420 is celebrated all over the world – California, Toronto, Amsterdam, Montego Bay – but one of the prime spots to be on this glorious day is London, England. Hyde Park to be specific.

This large patch of grass in the centre of London is the home to some of the world’s greatest 420 events, music and political movements. Today we’re going to be finding out more about this place and its beautiful historic relationship with cannabis. Learn more about this infamous stoner holiday, as well as some of our favorite products and activities to celebrate the day with. As always, the best 420 deals are reserved for the subscribers of The THC Weekly newsletter, so make sure to SUBSCRIBE today.

What is 420?

For some of you 420 will be an event that you await and long for every year, for others it will be an occasion that you know about but don’t care much for, and for others, it might be something you’ve literally never heard of. Well, wherever you sit in the acknowledgement scale, 420 is happening and there’s no doubt that it’s quite the spectacle. But what actually is it? 

420 is a cannabis holiday that occurs every year on the 20th of April. Much like many other holidays, some people decide to celebrate it, and others don’t. Of course 420 is referring to the month of April (4th) and the date (20th). The reason for the name ‘420’ is due to the USA’s ordering of the month before day. This is because the event originates from America. If it had originated in the UK it would probably be referred to as ‘204’ – doesn’t really have the same ring to it, does it? The actual reason for the name 420 has a far deeper and interesting history, but we’ll get on to that later. The cannabis holiday is a day of celebration and political activism. Not only do people get together to smoke, vape and digest cannabis, there are also usually elements of political conversations and collectivisation too. Music will usually be blaring, the smell of cannabis in the air, and perhaps some light or deep chats about the legalization of weed and the political issues of today. 420 is innately political. In its essence, it has to be. Vox writes:

“In the 1970s, 4/20 was part of a smaller counterculture movement that embraced marijuana as a symbol to protest against broader systemic problems in the US, like overseas wars and the power of corporations in America.”

Why is Cannabis Political?

Cannabis has always been political, even if those who enjoy it don’t decide to discuss it. The fact is, cannabis has been demonized and marginalised as a drug for centuries, and therefore anyone who uses it often experiences the same vilification. Who What Why writes:

“Why are certain drugs vilified while others are not? The answer often hinges on the race (and social class) the drug in question is associated with. In the case of marijuana in the US, the negative connotations took hold right from the start. This led to laws that criminalized the use and distribution of the plant almost everywhere in the Land of the Free.”

If you drink alcohol, you’re aware it’s legal and therefore don’t consider its legality. However, cannabis has always been seen as the ‘revolutionary drug’. In addition, cannabis also triggers effects of open-mindedness, thoughtfulness and unity, which can help people to think of modern issues in a more empathetic way. For example, during the famous Woodstock festivals of the 60s, people would smoke cannabis, listen to political musicians like Bob Dylan, and protest against the Vietnam War and Civil Rights issues. Therefore, it’s important to realise that 420 is about a lot more than just celebration and enjoying cannabis.

420 Origin Theories

Funnily enough, the actual birthplace and origin of 420 is still yet to be 100% confirmed. There are many theories – some definitely more believable than others. However, ultimately, you can make your own mind up. Here’s a list of some of the potential origin stories of 420, ordered from most believable to least believable. Read with caution. 

California School Kids

One of the most believable theories of the 420 origin is this one. Steven Hager from the High Times made the claim that 420 originated from a tradition that a group of California high school students started in the 70s. This tradition would have them all meet up at 4:20pm after school and smoke cannabis together. As this tradition became more widely known, people began translating it into a calendar date: 20th April. And thus the cannabis holiday began. 

Bob Dylan 

Then things become strange. This theory believes that 420 originates from a Dylan song. His song ‘Rainy Day Women number 12&35’ has a refrain in it that reads: ‘Everybody must get stoned’. And guess what? What’s 12 x 35? It’s 420. Is this a bit far fetched? Potentially. But, Bob Dylan was a big cannabis and political activist so maybe there could be some truth to it. 

Active Chemicals 

An even more far fetched theory believes that the 420 origin comes from there being exactly 420 compounds in cannabis. Whilst there are around 400 compounds – give or take – it has been proven that there isn’t exactly 420. So this theory is unlikely. 


The weirdest and perhaps worst theory for the origin of 420 is based around Adolf Hitler. The 20th April also happens to be the Nazi leaders birthday. There’s little evidence that Hitler was an advocate of cannabis, so this theory is basically pointless. But it’s a stupidly funny one nonetheless. 

Hyde Park & 420

So, now we’ve covered a little more about 420 as an event, let’s zoom in on what happens on the 20th April in Hyde Park. Hyde Park is the largest park in central London, minutes away from Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament. It’s famous for its speaker’s corner where famous figures like Lenin, Karl Marx and George Orwell were known to speak freely there. This political activist history is still part of its DNA and 420 is no different. The Labour MP, Jeff Smith, said this about cannabis activists at a 420 event: 

“Our cannabis laws are not fit for purpose and the cannabis using community has an important role to play in bringing about the kind of change we’re seeing in other countries and U.S. states. It’s time to end the stigmatisation and criminalisation of people who consume cannabis, and adopt a harm reduction focused approach. I’m impressed by the dynamism of campaigners”

In the UK, it is illegal to use any cannabis products containing above 0.2% THC. CBD is legal and medical cannabis is slowly becoming more widely used, but at a slow rate. Cannabis is the most used drug in the UK and, despite its stagnant and unprogregressive laws, around 60% of Brits support cannabis legalization. That’s why events like 420 at Hyde Park are an absolute spectacle. Funky-smelling smoke looms above thousands of like-minded cannabis lovers as they play music, lay in the sun, and connect. On the whole, people are free to consume cannabis at these events if they do it respectfully. It’s considered to be a peaceful protest. CBD Sloth writes:

“If you have a very small quantity, which broadly means less than an ounce (28g), then the police will normally accept it is just for personal use and will issue with a warning and potentially an on-the-spot fine. It largely depends on how relaxed the officer is, if you’re polite then it should normally be just a warning.’

The extent of the crowds would make it very difficult for the police to arrest everyone – especially with how peaceful the entire atmosphere is. As many cannabis-lovers will know, it chills rather than triggers aggression. So, for those attending, they can bask in the knowledge that today, in this park, they are free from the UK cannabis laws. A rather rebellious young adult spoke to Vice News about his 420 experience and said:

“I’ve come down here to smoke, bro…I want to do it in the police’s faces… the amount of times I’ve been nicked, this is my chance to get back at them.” 


420 is an international celebration for cannabis lovers all over the world to dance, chill, listen to music and take part in some political activism. Anyone who believes that 420 isn’t in any way political, simply does not understand it. Hyde Park has and always will be a major hotspot for 420 celebrations and if you’re ever around London on the 20th April – come on down. You won’t be disappointed.

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About the author

Joseph Mcqueen

Joseph is a cannabis journalist in the UK. His search and love for the truth in the cannabis industry is what drives him to write.