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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Thursday 8th December 2011 

To nowhere. I love diary entries that start like that. They seem to be crediting the reader with intelligence. The sentence should be ‘Today, I went to somewhere’ but it’s a diary so, obviously, it is about today unless otherwise stated and the default subject is the diarist. That makes ‘to somewhere’ perfectly clear.

I had expected to begin this blog entry with ‘To Glasgow’ but, with the metrological office issuing a red warning for storm force winds and heavy rains and everyone saying that travel disruption is a certainty, I decided I couldn’t take the chance. As forecast the weather has worsened through the day so I would, probably, have got to Glasgow and then, almost certainly, not been able to get back because of disruption to rail services.

It’s a big disappointment because I was really looking forward to the event to be hosted by Transform Drug Policy Foundation, Scotland; the Scottish premiere of ‘Raw Opium’ together with a discussion about the Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) report. I’ve written about the GCDP before, first when Kathy Gyngell queried the numbers used and, in doing so, confirmed the commission’s main finding and second when Ms Gyngell tried to portray the HASC as a puppet of the GCDP because she was so affronted by the notion that anyone should make a thorough examination of drug policy.

But I haven’t written about ‘Raw Opium’ because I expected to be able to do so after seeing it. I’m sure there will be other opportunities for me to watch it but I thought I would still blog about it today based on the information I’ve read about that made me want to see it.

Papaver somniferum, opium poppy

Papaver somniferum, opium poppy

The documentary was made by a Canadian company and looks at Papaver somniferum, opium poppy, from growing in Afghanistan and other parts of the world through to heroin use on the streets in Canada. One comment, made after the very first preview screening in 2010, was that the film, for the first time, took a holistic view of the situation looking at the harms caused all the way along the line by the flawed assumption that prohibition would lead to eradication.

There is a dedicated website for the documentary and there is more information about it on the production company’s website and I suggest you visit those sites.

While I’m writing about opium, I thought I might mention an online computer game. This is the time of year when, I would guess, regular gamers are reluctant to buy new games in case they get them as Christmas presents so you may be interested in this game from the Wellcome Collection

It’s not very challenging and I would think most people would reach the end after just a few tries but I recommend it because the introduction includes some very interesting information about the nineteenth century trade between the UK and China. Britain was desperate to get hold of an addictive substance for its population and decided that the way to finance the purchase of that substance was by supplying opium to China.

That substance was tea from Camellia sinensis, hence the name of the game ‘High Tea’.