THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 


This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Friday 7th October 2011

Personally, I no longer mark anniversaries. No birthdays, wedding anniversaries, Christmas, New Year or Easter. It’s been that way for a number of years and, now, I genuinely find some ‘important’ date has passed without my noticing. That’s not possible, of course, for things like Christmas where the commemoration is marked by the media and becomes impossible to avoid.

The media, also, is usually the reason I become aware of anniversary events with significance in world politics and I do find those of much more interest. Today, for example, is the tenth anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan.

I hesitated before I typed ‘war’ because I’m not sure I know what it is that has been going on in Afghanistan for all this time. Looking back, it seems surprising that the USA and its allies could embark on such a protracted military operation on the basis of less than one month’s preparations. I’m taking as true the notion that it was the 11th September attacks that brought about the decision to remove the Taliban but I rather suspect that the desirability or otherwise of such a course of action had been considered before then.

I’ve decided not to look back and see what was actually said about what was happening in Afghanistan but just to rely on my recall. As I recall, the idea of overthrowing the Taliban was to remove the safe haven Afghanistan provided for Al Qaeda. Almost as an afterthought, it was said that there was a need to create a stable modern government in Afghanistan that would extend rights to all Afghans and, as a result, prevent the Taliban returning to power.

What happened, of course, was that Al Qaeda, if it ever had been based in Afghanistan, removed itself to other places like Pakistan and Yemen and the Taliban decided to run for the mountains and wage guerrilla war on the NATO forces rather than try and remain in power. And that’s how what should have been a quick attack using overwhelming modern force has dragged out into ten years, so far, of sneak attacks, suicide bombings, concealed roadside devices and all the other things we hear about all too frequently.

Papaver somniferum, opium poppy

At some stage, some people decided that the intention of the war was (also) to cripple the production of opium from Papaver somniferum, grown especially in the south of the country. For a number of years, opium produced from poppies grown in Afghanistan accounted for over 90% of the estimated world production. During those years, production greatly exceeded demand so that, it is believed, a substantial stockpile of either unprocessed opium or heroin was built up.

In more recent years, the area under poppy has decreased but it still looks more like adjusting production to suit demand rather than a response to interdiction activities. I’ve said, many times, that attempting to deal with the harm caused by psychoactive substances by restricting supply is futile because there will always be someone else willing to step in to deal with demand. As well as seeing other producers increasing poppy cultivation as Afghanistan’s has declined, we’ve seen a switch to other substances.

Various things have been tried to limit poppy growing in Afghanistan. The latest plan, which has been latched onto by the media as the silver bullet solution, is for Afghan farmers to grow Crocus sativus, the crocus that provides saffron. Saffron is undoubtedly a very expensive substance and growing it provides a good income for farmers. However, one reason for its cost is that it is difficult to produce and transport and you have to wonder if Afghanistan has the infrastructure to be able to produce product of the required quality. It has also been suggested that the growing cycle of Crocus sativa is different to that of Papaver somniferum so that farmers may well be able to produce both crops in rotation.

It is hard not to think that, regardless of what happens in the political arena over the next ten years, unless changes are made to the way the world tries to deal with psychoactive substances, Afghanistan will still be beset with the problems arising from the large scale criminal activity associated with the production of heroin.


Full Entries


Tuesday 25th October 2016
Saturday 20th August 2016
Sunday 6th March 2016
Wednesday 3rd February 2016


Saturday 28th November 2015
Friday 27th November 2015
Monday 17th August 2015
Wednesday 15th July 2015
Friday 26th June 2015
Thursday 25th June 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Wednesday 11th March 2015
Tuesday 3rd March 2015
Saturday 28th February 2015
Sunday 22nd February 2015

November 2014

Monday 24th November 2014
Saturday 8th November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

Wednesday 24th September 2014
Monday 1st September 2014

August 2014

Tuesday 26th August 2014
Saturday 16th August 2014
Tuesday 5th August 2014
Friday 1st August 2014

July 2014

Sunday 27th July 2014
Wednesday 23rd July 2014
Sunday 13th July 2014
Sunday 6th July 2014
Tuesday 1st July 2014

June 2014

Wednesday 25th June 2014
Tuesday 24th June 2014
Sunday 22nd June 2014
Monday 9th June 2014
Wednesday 4th June 2014

May 2014

Monday 26th May 2014
Sunday 18th May 2014
Wednesday 14th May 2014

April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014
Saturday 5th April 2014
Thursday 3rd April 2014
Tuesday 1st April 2014

March 2014

Monday 31st March 2014
Tuesday 25th March 2014
Friday 21st March 2014
Monday 17th March 2014
Sunday 16th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Thursday 6th March 2014
Wednesday 5th March 2014
Saturday 1st March 2014

February 2014

Thursday 27th February 2014
Monday 24th February 2014
Wednesday 19th February 2014
Monday 17th February 2014
Thursday 13th February 2014
Monday 4th February 2014
Monday 3rd February 2014
Saturday 1st February 2014

January 2014

Thursday 28th January 2014
Thursday 23rd January 2014
Friday 17th January 2014
Wednesday 15th January 2014
Monday 13th January 2014
Thursday 9th January 2014
Tuesday 7th January 2014
Wednesday 1st January 2014

December 2013

Monday 23rd December 2013
Friday 20th December 2013
Tuesday 17th December 2013
Friday 14th December 2013
Thursday 12th December 2013
Sunday 8th December 2013
Wednesday 4th December 2013
Sunday 1st December 2013

November 2013

Friday 29th November 2013
Wednesday 27th November 2013
Tuesday 26th November 2013
Friday 22nd November 2013
Monday 18th November 2013
Friday 15th November 2013
Thursday 14th November 2013
Sunday 10th November 2013
Thursday 7th November 2013
Wednesday 6th November 2013
Friday 1st November 2013

October 2013

Thursday 31st October 2013
Sunday 27th October 2013
Wednesday 23rd October 2013
Monday 21st October 2013
Friday 18th October 2013
Friday 11th October 2013
Wednesday 9th October 2013
Tuesday 8th October 2013
Monday 7th October 2013
Tuesday 1st October 2013

September 2013

Monday 30th September 2013
Saturday 28th September 2013
Friday 27th September 2013
Monday 23rd September 2013
Sunday 15th September 2013
Monday 9th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

August 2013

Sunday 8th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

Tuesday 27th August 2013
Sunday 25th August 2013
Monday 19th August 2013
Friday 16th August 2013
Tuesday 13th August 2013
Friday 9th August 2013
Friday 2nd August 2013
Thursday 1st August 2013

July 2013

Saturday 27th July 2013
Sunday 21st July 2013
Wednesday 17th July 2013
Monday 15th July 2013
Saturday 13th July 2013
Friday 12th July 2013
Thursday 11th July 2013
Wednesday 10th July 2013
Tuesday 9th July 2013
Saturday 6th July 2013

June 2013

Friday 28th June 2013
Tuesday 25th June 2013
Friday 21st June 2013
Thursday 20th June 2013
Wednesday 19th June 2013
Saturday 15th June 2013
Sunday 9th June 2013
Saturday 8th June 2013
Saturday 1st June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012 blog

June 2012 blog

May 2012 blog

April 2012 blog

March 2012 blog

February 2012 blog

January 2012 blog

December 2011 blog

November 2011 blog

October 2011 blog

September 2011 blog

August 2011 blog

July 2011 blog

June 2011 blog


The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.