Chatting with the Man Who Legally Changed His Name to ‘Free Cannabis’


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Written by Kyle MacNeill
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This article originally appeared on VICE UK

The whole weed-still-being-illegal-in-2016-thing: it’s all a bit silly, isn’t it? While other parts of the world take a sensible approach to cannabis—decriminalizing and even legalizing it—the UK’s government continues to plod along, refusing to engage in any kind of sensible debate on the topic.

But it’s not just the government: there are also a few odd-bods out there taking the fight against the devil’s lettuce into their own hands. You know, neighborhood watch types. The sorts whose year would be made if they could citizen’s arrest someone for watching TV without a license. Earlier this year, there was that guy who complained about the smell of weed at a “cosmic” music festival. Now, a complaint about cannabis plants being grown in Glastonbury council’s flower pots has prompted authorities to rip them all up.

The person who sowed these seeds? A man formerly known as “Rob,” who has changed his name to “Free Cannabis” by deed poll, for fairly obvious reasons. Mr. Cannabis is a campaigner and the owner of a hemp shop in Glastonbury, one of the locations where the offending plants were growing. Free told Somerset Live that all the furore around this news is a “sad reflection of society’s hemp-phobia,” so I gave him a call to find out a little more.

VICE: Hi, Free. When did you start planting the seeds in the council displays?
Free Cannabis: Since 1998, I suppose.

So you’ve been planting them covertly?
No. I remember one year we did it where we waved to cameras around town before and afterwards, with mud all over my hands. We had about 20 people planting-up by the main monument. It came up thick and in full sprout, all the way through the year.

So what happened here?
Apparently there was a complaint to the police. The police and the council are finding it a complete waste of time, but some people still get upset about cannabis plants growing in the displays. It’s quite a routine thing in Glastonbury and other places in the UK, like Bath. It is a plant, after all.

It seems you’ve always focused on direct action rather than lobbying.
I have no faith in the criminal system, masquerading as the government. This is a hugely beneficial plant. There were times in my life where I sought arrest—I got arrested six times between 1997 and 2001—and went to prison three times. Now they leave me alone, mainly because I know far too much information that they’d rather keep from the public.

What kind of information?
They don’t want people to know that Cameron’s great-great-great grandfather was head of the East India Trading Company [he wasn’t, but he was a senior civil servant with the EITC] and the blatant involvement of the CIA in the cocaine trade [a popular—though much more complicated than that—allegation against the CIA]. They’d rather it didn’t come into mainstream consciousness, but it’s out there now.

OK. On a basic level, why do you grow cannabis?
Basically, we all have an endo-cannabinoid receptor system. Our bodies are designed to function at an optimal level on a diet rich with cannabis. Ideally we’d have it in our gardens, juicing it fresh. Hemp has a multitude of benefits; primarily it is a source of food, fiber, fuel, and medicine. Food from the seed, leaf, and flower. The seed provides a perfect balance for the nutrients we need. The flower provides cannabinoids to improve cellular function and neuro-feedback to create homeostasis. Hemp paper is far more sustainable and stronger than tree paper, and the fiber can also be used to make Hempcrete.

It’s a pretty amazing plant. Reading your story on your website, it generally seems that your trajectory of promoting hemp has been becoming more spiritual? What was the cause of that direction?
After I got arrested so many times, in 2005 I spent increasingly longer times in Spain. In 2008 and 2009, I lived totally wild up in the mountains of Spain, off-grid, not touching money or shops. Just living wild and free and having the most amazing time ever, and having quite a spiritual awakening.

And that was from just living wild, not from any other chemical aids?
From living wild. I have experimented with mushrooms and a bit of acid once or twice, but my days of being quite hardcore into class A psychedelics are in my past now. I am not opposed to them. If people want to take those drugs, that’s fine by me. The whole of prohibition is criminal. To be honest, there is more need for regulation of the class As because of the way that the drugs are cut and the criminality it’s supporting.

Do you have any events or stunts planned in the near future?
On September 28 this year—the 88th anniversary of cannabis prohibition in the UK—I’ll be marking that out with an endocannabinoid receptor activation ceremony, feeding people with cannabis legally, with CBD truffles.

Cool, I hope it goes well. Thanks, Free!


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