Cannabis advocates made headlines this year by adding a competitive marijuana plant exhibit to the 2016 Oregon state fair. But that's not the first time cannabis has been entered into an agricultural contest. A British man has been planting cannabis in public flowerpots for almost 20 years. And in 1998, one of his illicit arrangements won the Glastonbury in Bloom Award, a community competition in which local businesses decorate their shops with flowers to beautify the small English town.
The man - who legally changed his name from Robert Christopher to Free Cannabis - owns a hemp shop selling legal, medicinal products. But he also moonlights as a cannabis prankster, dropping seeds in public floral displays. He recently admitted to disseminating the illegal plant when someone informed police that cannabis was growing in a community flower tub. Authorities quickly tore up the plant, which provoked Free's response.
“I am amazed that people get so excited about this," he told The Sun, "it’s a sad reflection of society’s hemp-phobia.”
In an interview with The Daily Mail, he added, "This is a plant that has so many medicinal qualities - it’s a food, it’s used for fibre and fuel - it basically gives you everything you need. It’s insane that a plant that is so beneficial - it’s used in the treatment of cancer, MS, arthritis and pain management - is illegal."
It's not clear yet if Free has been charged with a crime because it is legal to buy and possess cannabis seeds in the U.K., but you cannot cultivate the plant. Free argues that he's innocent of that charge because the real culprits are city council and mother nature.
“I and others drop the seeds into the tubs, they get watered by nature and the council,” he told The Sun.
In the meantime, he's still hoping for a day when his shop will no longer be necessary.
“My dream is to be out of business," he told The Sun. "I just want to live in a world in which this plant is honoured and respected and grown freely.”