It's generally against the rules for journalists to accept gifts from sources—we can't have bribes clouding our judgment—but there is one notable exception to this rule. It's colloquially referred to as the "Holy Shit! A Member of British Parliament Just Handed Me a Joint" Exception.
Recently, Crispin Blunt, who happens to be a member of British Parliament, reached into his pocket as we were sitting at the Kimpton Palladian Hotel on Second Avenue and pulled out a pre-rolled joint covered in keef and oil.
"I won't be needing this, so here's a little care package," Blunt said, with a bit of a smile in the corner of his lips.
What brought this member of Parliament into my life, and why was he in possession of a joint in the first place? Blunt is part of a group of politicians in the United Kingdom's version of Congress who are advocating for cannabis reform. He was here to learn a thing or two from how Washington State legalized pot.
"In the United Kingdom, we are in the privileged position of watching this bloody great experiment happening over here," Blunt said. "So we may as well let you get on with it and see what happens."
Blunt isn't the first foreign official to check out our legal weed system. It's easy to forget, but what Washington voters did in 2012 was unprecedented, and our bureaucratic officials and elected representatives had the task of turning that unprecedented initiative into a working regulatory framework. Going from prohibition to legalization is a heavy lift, and that's what Blunt is looking at doing at home.
Both recreational and medical pot are completely illegal in the UK, but that wall of prohibition is starting to crumble, starting with medical cannabis. Pot reform has followed a similar arc in the United States—the obvious cruelty of denying sick people medicine makes medical pot a successful wedge against prohibition.
The tearjerker in the United Kingdom is a little kid named Alfie (of course his name is Alfie), who has a rare form of epilepsy that cannabis appears to be good at treating. The only problem is the UK government won't let Alfie's family import the cannabis oil he needs.
"The treatment available to him in the UK is a steroid... and he would ironically be given psychosis and a premature death," Blunt said. "How on earth are they going to defend a position that would send a 6-year-old boy to his death?"
Blunt said the government is close to finding a solution to Alfie's particular situation and expects Parliament will be able to pass full medical marijuana regulations by the end of 2022.
"There is now a political will to get medical cannabis," Blunt said. "There's no reason it couldn't be done by the end of this year."
I pushed Blunt to predict when recreational weed will be legalized, but he dithered and wouldn't give a specific timeline. Recreational legalization isn't quite as popular in the United Kingdom as it is in the United States. A 2016 poll found 47 percent of British people supported recreational legalization (compared to around 60 percent in the United States).
But this wouldn't be the first time Blunt took a less than popular approach to a drug issue. When the UK government tried to ban the sale of poppers, a drug popular with gay men, Blunt, who is himself gay, stood on the floor of the House of Commons and admitted that he actively used the drug.
Blunt is not, however, a regular pot user. His first cannabis experience happened a week before we met, when he ate 10 milligrams of THC pills and walked through San Francisco's Asian Art Museum with his partner. He didn't enjoy it.
"I didn't like it very much because everything slowed down. For a politician to feel a loss of control is rather alarming," Blunt said. "So I don't quite get what all the fuss is about."
I'm of the opposite opinion, so I had no problem taking that infused joint off his hands.