In October of last year, Paul Flynn, a member of UK Parliament since 1987, invited anyone interested to come on down to Westminster and break the law.
Flynn, a wiry 82 year old with wispy, windblown gray hair, sat down at the head of a small folding table on the grass outside the halls of Theresa May’s government. As constables at the Westminster Palace gates looked on, Flynn, two fellow MPs, and a few dozen others offered an unusual take on a proper English tea party—one punishable by up to five years behind bars.
Infused in some of Flynn’s tea, baked into a few of the cakes, and—much more obviously—smoldering in the joints and spliffs between partygoers’ lips, was cannabis.
“I said to people, ‘Come here and break the law,’” Flynn told Leafly in an interview later that month. “It’s a stupid law—it’s the duty of good people to object and break laws that oppress the sick and the powerless.
“We challenged the police to come and arrest us,” he added. “And they didn’t.”
As it is in the United States, cannabis is illegal in the United Kingdom under national law. Possession is punishable by a term of up to five years, and an unlimited fine. These terms are rarely enforced, but they’re on the books nonetheless, and have the ongoing consequences of stunting research and putting the UK out of step of the rest of Europe.
The nonintervention was a bit of a setback. Had police descended upon Flynn and hauled him away—rather than simply ignore the longtime Labour backbencher, and watch as he headed inside Parliament to introduce a law that would legalize medical marijuana in the United Kingdom—the tea party might’ve made bigger waves.
Instead, Flynn finished his cup, did a few interviews, and resumed the longstanding, long-shot effort to legalize medical cannabis.
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