420: Thousands gather in London's Hyde Park to celebrate smoking weed

Christopher Hooton

A record number (at least by my rough head count) of people showed up to Hyde Park in London from across the country yesterday for the annual 420 event, celebrating marijuana use and protesting its continued illegality in the UK.

The park's Speaker's Corner was strewn with participants, lying down in groups to blaze, chat and listen to music.

A cloud of smoke could be seen 100m away and the scent wafted much further, the event appearing like a festival but without any actual stages or attractions.

There were no policing mishaps like last year (when a police horse ran into a crowd), but there was still a strong police presence, with officers mostly just standing at the fringes and spectating, the numbers of people breaking the law in the park being too vast for them to do anything about.

A photo from last year's 420 celebration in Hyde Park (Photo: Alan Schaller/The Independent)

As countries around the world move to legalise or decriminalise marijuana use, it remains a class B drug in the UK, its classification having only gone up in recent years.

Over 230,000 people signed a petition for cannabis, which can carry up to a 5-year prison sentence for possession, to be legalised in 2015, but a debate in parliament was dismissed out of hand by the government.

There was some argument over whether 420 was a protest or a picnic this year, but one reveller succinctly described it as a "protest through picnicking".