The most colorful candidate for the mayor of London is Lee Harris, a 79-year-old head-shop owner who is campaigning to end marijuana prohibition in the city, as well as the entire United Kingdom.
"The archaic laws that have gone on here, the last 70 years of drug prohibition, have caused more harm than good," he told supporters at a recent event. "People should not be penalised or criminalised for possession of cannabis or growing a few plants."
Here are five interesting things about England's top pro-marijuana candidate.
1. He's a fringe candidate with deep pockets
Harris is the candidate for the pro-legalization CISTA (Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol) party, which is backed by Paul Birch, the tech entrepreneur who made millions in 2015 by selling Bebo to AOL. So CISTA may be a new party, but it has the money to make a splash before voters cast their ballots in May.
2. He came over from the dark side
The pro-marijuana candidate wasn't always in favor of drug legalization. When Harris moved to London's West End in the 1950s, he was appalled by recreational drug use in clubs. So he advocated for stricter drug laws: "amphetamines were banned, and personal possession was made a crime," Harris told The Guardian. "Personal possession has been a crime since then. It's one thing I bitterly regret."
3. What he learned from Nelson Mandela
Harris was born and raised in South Africa, but he fled to England in 1956 when his leftwing beliefs and opposition to apartheid made him a target of the government. Before leaving, he met Nelson Mandela, who taught him that "there were unjust laws. And that sometimes for there to be change you have to fight for.it."
4. He also befriended a Beat icon
In 1995, Harris arranged Allen Ginsberg's final performance in the U.K. Here's Ginsberg reading his anti-war poem "Hurn Born" in London for that event:
5. His campaign launch party was legendary
Harris is 79, but he can party like someone half his age. The launch party for his mayoral campaign lasted early into the morning as supporters rocked out to some roots reggae at London's bohemian Mau Maum Bar.
h/t The Guardian