What is 420, how ‘weed day’ got its name and is it legal in the UK?


People across the UK celebrate 420 day each year (Picture: Getty Images)

A controversial day that’s either loved or loathed across the globe, 420 is here so be prepared for particularly pungent strolls today.

Around the world, fans of Marijuana celebrate the green herb on this day – think of it as an unofficial holiday.

Also known as ‘weed day’, 420 falls on the same day every year and one of the largest UK congregations of those marking it is in London.

Read on to find out everything you need to know.

What is 420 day?

Today – 420 – is celebrated every year on April 20, with April being the fourth month of the year.

It sees people across the world lighting up a spliff and coming together to celebrate the herb.

Events are usually held, with participants also aiming to bring awareness to the cause of the legalisation of marijuana.

The drug is still illegal in the UK, with no current plans to legalise it. It is against the law to possess, sell, distribute and grow cannabis in the UK.

With weed being illegal in many parts of the world, 420 is part-celebration and part-protest against what some see as excessive laws against the drug.


Marijuana leaves background

The exact origins of 420 day are still unknown (Picture: Jena Ardell via Getty Images)

What does 420 mean?

Despite it growing substantially in popularity over the years, the exact origins of the term 420 have not officially been declared.

The term has been much discussed among many who partake in both the day and the drug.

According to legend, the date goes back to 1971, where a group of students at San Rafael High School in California would meet at 4.20pm every day for a joint and a catch-up.

The group – who called themselves The Waldos – then started to use the time to describe the act of smoking itself, and thus 420 was born.

Due to the fact that Americans tend to write the 20th April as 4/20, it naturally became the official day to mark getting high.

There are many other theories surrounding how 420 was popularised, with some believing it was police code for cops to signal when they’d caught someone smoking (although the three digits are actually the code for murder).

Others believe it has something to do with the chemical compounds in cannabis, while others have come up with suitably stonerific Bob Dylan-based conspiracy theories.

Is anything happening in Hyde Park in 2022?

Following two years of 420 gatherings in Hyde Park being cancelled, due to the Covid pandemic, they are returning this year on April 20th.

Currently, on the Hyde Park 420 2022 Facebook page, 313 people are set to attend the event that kicks off at 1pm.

However, the day usually draws in huge crowds of Marijuana aficionados with attendees in the realm of 11,000 people.

Cannabis is a Class B drug in the UK, meaning there is the possibility a five-year prison sentence if you are caught in possession of the drug.

Given the relaxing of Covid restrictions, people are allowed to gather in Hyde Park with no group allowance – unlike 2021’s six-person gathering limits.

While medicinal cannabis was made legal in the UK in 2018, it is still illegal to use it recreationally.

If you are caught growing Marijuana, you can face up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

Many countries across the world have made the move to decriminalize the drug entirely, while others have only made medical cannabis legal, similar to the UK.

Find out where weed is legal worldwide below:

The following countries allow you to possess weed for personal use.

  • Australia (only legal in Australian Capital Territory)
  • Canada
  • United States (legalised, or in the midst of being legalised in 18 states)
  • Uruguay

The following 18 American states have legalised, or are legalising, Marijuana for personal use:

  • Alaska 
  • Arizona 
  • California 
  • Colorado 
  • Connecticut 
  • Illinois 
  • Maine 
  • Massachusetts 
  • Michigan 
  • Montana 
  • Nevada 
  • New Jersey 
  • New Mexico 
  • New York 
  • Oregon 
  • Vermont 
  • Virginia 
  • Washington 

Joint in the hand

Weed has been decriminalised in almost 20 US states (Picture: Tunatura via Getty Images)

Medical prescription-only

  • Argentina (recreational use also decriminalised, but purchase illegal)
  • Australian (at federal level and all states)
  • Austria
  • Barbados (also legal for spiritual use by registered Rastafarians)
  • Belgium (recreational use also decriminalised for up to 3g)
  • Bermuda (recreational use also decriminalised)
  • Brazil (only for terminally ill patients or those who have no other treatment options)
  • Chile (recreational use also decriminalised)
  • Columbia (recreational use also decriminalised)
  • Croatia (recreational use also decriminalised)
  • Cyprus
  • Denmark
  • Ecuador (recreational use also decriminalised)
  • Finland
  • Germany (only for seriously ill patients who have exhausted other options)
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Israel (recreational use also decriminalised)
  • Italy (recreational use also decriminalised)
  • Jamaica (recreational use also decriminalised)
  • South Korea (access limited)
  • Lebanon
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg (recreational use also decriminalised)
  • Malawi
  • Malta (recreational use also decriminalised)
  • Mexico (recreational use also decriminalised)
  • Netherlands (recreational consumption allowed in licensed coffee shops)
  • New Zealand
  • North Macedonia
  • Norway
  • Peru (recreational use also decriminalised)
  • Portugal (recreational use also decriminalised)
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • San Marino
  • Slovenia (recreational use also decriminalised)
  • South Africa (also legal for cultivation but not for sale)
  • Spain (limited)
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sweden (under limited circumstances)
  • Switzerland
  • Thailand
  • Turkey (Cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals only)
  • Ukraine (limited)
  • United Kingdom
  • Vanuatu
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

All other countries deem weed to be illegal, although there are a few where the law tends to be largely unenforced by police and prosecutions are not made.

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