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.

Sunday 18th March 2012

The good thing about writing a blog is that you are free to say ‘I told you so’ if something you’ve predicted turns out to be true.

The bad thing about writing a blog is that you are free to say ‘I told you so’ if something you’ve predicted turns out to be true.

The blogger is far more likely to come across as arrogant and egotistical than as the source of all wisdom. Knowing that, I try to avoid using that phrase or even implying it. But, today, I feel completely justified.

I told you so.

Specifically, on Friday, when I wrote about the Versus debate organised by Intelligence2, I said;

‘You might be led to wonder why [Peter] Hitchens participated in this event. The audience, clearly, had no respect for anything he said. My view is that Hitchens knew exactly what reaction he wanted to get so that, when he returns to his own constituency, he can tell it that those in favour of reform are scornful of common sense and uninterested in reason.’

And so it has been. In today’s Mail on Sunday column, Hitchens, albeit as his fourth topic, indulges in one of his trademark attacks on someone who disagrees with him; this time Russell Brand. But it is the last sentence that tells all; ‘I think it gives a pretty good idea of the difference between the pro and anti-drug causes.’

I said that the Versus debate was, to an extent, preaching to the choir and here is Hitchens doing the exact same thing. He has no need to explain that last sentence because his readership, being right-minded people, can be trusted to know what that means.

Because of his apparent need to pursue his vendetta against the Prime Minister, Hitchens didn’t have the space, in the printed paper, to give full flow to his views on the debate so that has to come in a blog entry online. I haven’t gone through all of the comments after the piece but I did spot one that pointed out that when Hitchens wrote that Russell Brand had responded with ‘a tirade of personal abuse’ he was omitting to mention that he had been abusive on a personal level first.

So, nothing useful is to be learnt from Hitchens’ recollections of the debate. Sadly, the same is true of the other item flowing from the Versus debate in the Guardian, a ‘conversation’ between Sir Richard Branson and Lord Blair, the former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

I’ve met Richard Branson a number of times and I’m not surprised that he doesn’t have a full grasp of all the issues involved in drug policy reform. I think he’s the sort who makes a decision and then goes forward with it rather than getting buried in detail. And Ian Blair’s time as Met commissioner saw him criticised for not knowing enough about what was going on, especially over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. So it is only to be expected that this debate adds little of value to either side of the argument. In fact Blair’s contribution is so light on detail that the reporter has seen fit to add some;

‘IB: The Portugal statistics are disputed. It is not yet a proven case. [Overall drug use has increased, and the homicide rate went up – a fact, said a UN Office on Drugs and Crime report, that "might" be due to trafficking activity.]’

Sadly, that bracketed additional detail is wrong and reveals that the reporter hasn’t troubled to look into the substance of claims made about the situation in Portugal.

The bad thing about writing a blog is that you find yourself saying the same thing again and again.

The good thing about writing a blog is that you can say the same thing again and again.

If you want to get a clear picture of what the change in policy produced in Portugal then you should read the paper by Caitlin Hughes & Alex Stevens that I’ve mentioned a number of times but I’m repeating because it really gives a carefully researched, balanced view of what lies behind the claims made by both sides.

What’s new this time is that you can, if you prefer, watch Prof. Stevens present the results of that work, plus other examples of drug policy in Europe, at the recent Baker Institute conference.

One telling point that he makes is that prohibitionists are right to say that the reported number of deaths where people were found to have used drugs has risen but they ignore the fact that Portugal has increased the number of post mortem examinations undertaken and that if any trace of any drug is found in the toxicological screening it is counted as a drug-related death. Drug deaths measured the way the rest of the EU measures them have fallen considerably.

Any claim about the impact of drug policy changes has to be examined with great care because it is unlikely to be as straightforward as the person making the claim would want you to believe.  


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.