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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Friday 3rd June 2011

Getting ready to go out swimming, I half-watched the coverage on ‘The Wright Stuff’ of the report from the Global Commission on Drugs. The report from this group of politicians, former UN officials and businessman has received a lot of media coverage because of its unequivocal statement that the ‘war on drugs’ has failed.
The coverage on Channel 5 was fairly typical of the media reaction with some equating any change in the regime with open legalisation but others focussing on the need to treat substance use as a healthcare issue particularly on the issue of adulteration and contamination.
The discussion, what I heard of it, resonated with me because of what happened on Thursday when I stopped in to the Alnwick Garden on the way to Craster.
There are two new information boards on the fence close to the gates of the Poison Garden. One says 'some plants become killers only in the hands of men, like tobacco, coca, cannabis and opium poppies'. Now, there’s absolutely no doubt that tobacco is a killer as is heroin. Cocaine is a more debatable matter as many of the deaths attributed to cocaine result from its use with alcohol or other substances.

Cannabis sativa 

But, what is not in any doubt is that cannabis is NOT a killer. Scientifically, it is accepted fact that there is no such thing as a lethal dose of cannabis. There has only ever been one inquest where cannabis use was given as the sole cause of death and, examination of the evidence, makes it clear that the coroner took a simplistic view of the complicated factors that led to the fatality concerned.
The problem with saying something untrue about part of a subject is that it destroys your credibility on the rest. Young people know that cannabis is not a killer and anyone who tells them that it is will not be believed when they try and tell the truth about alcohol, tobacco or heroin. The Alnwick Garden claims that a key point of having the Poison Garden is to provide educational messages about substance use to young people. Sadly, the information board at the entrance provides the sort of substance abuse message that may appeal to the older generation that believes ‘Just say ‘No’’ is the best approach but it won’t make any impact on the choice a 13-year old makes when offered something to ‘liven up the evening’.