UK lawmakers join protest tea party to support medicinal marijuana

LONDON (Reuters) - Several British lawmakers lent their support to a cannabis tea party on the lawns outside parliament on Tuesday, protesting against legislation that criminalizes use of the drug for medical purposes.

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Three Members of Parliament and dozens of patients sat down at a table laid out with cakes and scones laced with the drug, as hemp plants swayed against a Westminster backdrop.

The tea party was held to draw attention to a motion being submitted later in the day by veteran lawmaker Paul Flynn of the opposition Labour Party that aims to change legislation around medical cannabis use.

Flynn’s motion, which has only a slim chance of success, would allow the production, supply, possession and use of cannabis and resin for medicinal purposes.

Earlier in the year, Flynn called on people who could face imprisonment for taking cannabis for medical reasons to break the law.

Flynn himself declined offers at the party to try some cannabis. “I’ve got to make a speech at 2pm,” he said, adding that otherwise he’d be happy to take it and wouldn’t be worried about breaking the law.

Patients suffering from chronic conditions such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis face up to 14 years in prison under British drugs law for using cannabis to treat their pain.

But the protesters on Tuesday were not afraid of breaking the law.

Sitting in a wheelchair with a cannabis joint in hand and a second rolled up in his pocket, Christopher Hobday, 41, said he suffers from an autoimmune disease which leaves him in constant pain and has lost him the use of his right leg. Consuming cannabis alleviated the pain.

“It is life-changing for me. It means that I actually have a life,” Hobday said.

Faye Jones, a 33-year-old executive assistant and an organizer of the tea party, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis five years ago.

“I was 27 and I was using one of those day organizers for my pills - it was ridiculous,” Jones said. “I’ve now managed to replace all of those drugs with just cannabis.”

Tuesday’s protest was arranged by the United Patients Alliance, a group that has campaigned for many years on the issue.

Reporting by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Stephen Addison