Meeting Lee Harris
and Tony Taylor

Two Larger Than Life Figures

Article by jam gorilla that appeared in Bubblejam DeLite Magazine (issue #9)

A lot could be said about Lee Harris and Tony Taylor as they have definitely created a stir on London’s alternative or counter-culture scene and in holistic and medical circles too. They come from diverse backgrounds and have pursued different careers in life but have one thing in common. Both are veterans in the fight to ‘Free the Weed’ and are challenging current laws by championing the use of cannabis for its healing and therapeutic qualities.

I arranged to meet them for several reasons; the medicinal aspects of hemp apart from drinking hemp oil are somehow lost on me as I have been blessed with relatively good health. I was also curious about the kind of people who for a long time now have been practicing in that field, something that potentially can bring a lot of discomfort to your life. It can involve being arrested, visited or raided by police for ‘crimes’ like selling pipes and cigarette papers (as in Lee’s case) or using pure THC to treat people suffering from chronic pain, multiple sclerosis or illnesses that conventional medicine assumes do not exist or can’t cure. To me, they represent something pure and endearing: the force of their convictions.

So it was early Saturday afternoon – time for every respectful clubber to doze off – when bleary eyed by partying the night before I approached Portobello Market, looking for the picturesque Alchemy Books. It is the oldest head shop in London and meeting up point for any creative head banging around Portobello; later on this year it celebrates 30 years of existence with an album featuring Westbourne Park alumni like Youth & JC001 amongst others.

Lee Harris is the man who runs it. Volumes could be written about Lee and his counter-culture experiences. He is a publisher, writer and performer, you name it, he got his fingers in it. He was a driving force behind Brainstorm, the cult 70’s comic - starring psychedelic alchemist Chester P. Hackenbush – and in 1977 published Europe’s first dope magazine, Homegrown. Friends with Alan Ginsberg, Timothy Leary and Harry Shapiro, Lee’s travels in the Underground could fill several volumes.

As for his cannabis experience, it is the predictable story of an activist. Busted and fined for smoking pot in 1967, he took part in first ever ‘Legalize Cannabis’ rally in Hyde Park that year. He was busted, raided and arrested again in 1989 for selling king size cigarettes papers and pipes in Alchemy Books. He made national press headlines that time so was promptly released after one day in the cell. He shares this predicament with many in the UK but it has only stiffened his resolve to carry on with the trading regardless. I am here in his colourful shop for another reason too. I arranged to meet the infamous Tony Taylor here. At this point I realise how fortunate I was in achieving this meeting of greats.

Tony is the man who has created a bit of a splash in medical circles and is busy defying and rewriting medical textbooks by using his own holistic remedies. His methods comprise using THC, the active ingredient of cannabis, in treating people and he is phenomenally successful. Perhaps he is better known to the wider public for running Tony’s Hemp Corner (a holistic clinic and strictly organic food shop) on Caledonian Road, Kings Cross. Tony’s has been nine years in the making and it is immensely popular with local organic food aficionados and seekers of holistic remedies.

We are all very busy with a punishing schedule on the cards and half an hour was all that we could collectively spare – and what an intense half an hour for me. Lee strikes me immediately as an intellectual with nurtured interests and chats amiably and eloquently about the past, present and future. Tony on the other hand appears as a strong personality, fanatical about organic food and cannabinoids, mischievous like a kid and passionate. He may appear as a bully but a bully with the difference, he cares a lot for his victims; however you would be advised not to play with tobacco around him. We are have decamped to a rather noisy coffee shop with a particularly irritating expresso machine – damn it! - and we chat. Some of the things they say are off the record completely. Tony has a court case pending after police - let’s say visited him - so we are generous with the pause button now and then. I am mostly inquiring of them as to what the motives for messing around with cannabis are.

Lee got into hemp in the ‘60s. Holistic issues were always important to him, however his approach to cannabis is formed in an intellectual and rebellious way. In his own words, ‘cannabis law in this country is a mind bending substance - the present law is not helping anyone and confuses all’. His personal favourite is otherwise Ginseng. He is hooked on it and ritualised the intake with a profound effect on his life.

Tony on the contrary is a practical animal, got involved 9 years ago because he had a broken neck after a car accident and discovered organic food and esoteric world of healing. It helped him so he got involved and started his holistic clinic. It is as simple as that. Six years ago somebody walked into his life with hemp seeds and weed and he has never looked back. He eats seeds regularly, lost seven stones and his metabolism changed profoundly as a result. Tony witnessed the amazing medicinal qualities of THC around five years ago when people with wasting syndrome – (Aids patients) started coming to his clinic. He first experimented with giving them hemp seeds and starting with nine patients; Tony has built the clinic up to over 550 regulars now. In the course of holistic treatment, he recommends special diets, offers life style advice and uses lots of medicinal cannabis with organic ingredients.

Tony is rightly famous for his hemp cream and black oil and also the hemp seed oil ,obtained by cold pressing are sought over . They have been treating and healing patients who were given weeks to live by conventional doctors – hopeless cases or category DS 1500. Six years later they are still around – notably his first patient Carlos. They definitely must be doing something right over at Tony’s Hemp Corner, in spite of the scorn poured on cannabis therapists by conventional medicine bodies. So here we were, with Simon Magus on my side chatting passionately and I realised we could have been here for another day as Ibogaine was mentioned and it is another amazing substance with amazing qualities. Sadly time is upon us and reality pitches up. For dessert I am asking about the best way to take cannabis. This is what I heard; in order to maximise the treatment cannabis should be cooked, drunk or vaporised.

The worst one you could do with weed is to smoke it. So now you know.

© Jam Gorilla