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 10th May 2013

'If drugs are harmful and kill why do people sell them and make them? It’s stupid, they’re putting other peoples’ lives at stake. By the way I’m 12 and doing it for a report at school and dads a cop, moms a lawyer.'

I received this email from someone in the USA and thought I’d reply here partly because this is a question a lot of people ask but also because I’m waiting to hear from a parent before replying directly. Obviously, I’m not going to identify the young person who sent the email so I’ll refer to them by the gender neutral Jamie.

Dear Jamie,

Thank you very much for your email. I'll try and give you my answers to your questions but you must understand these are MY answers. I am sure you will be asking a number of people these questions before writing your school report taking all the different answers into account.

The important word in your question is ‘If’. It is not possible to say that all drugs are harmful to everybody who uses them. The way in which drugs work is not fully understood, partly because the law makes it so difficult to do research, but there are a couple of ways we can see that drugs are not harmful all the time.

First, there is the population approach. It is estimated that, in the whole world, between 100 and 200 million people use Cannabis sativa, marijuana, every year. The numbers of people seeking assistance for problems with marijuana use is a small fraction of that and even if you said only some of the people who have problems seek help you still end up with a very large number of people using cannabis without any problems.

There is also some limited research evidence. A study in Jamaica in the 1970s found that some people had problems using cannabis. In a group of people sharing a joint it was understood that someone might not want to join in because he didn’t ‘have the head’ for it. This means we know that not everyone responds to these substances the same way. What we don’t know is why that is.

But, it has to be said that these are adults. There is more evidence that young people should not use cannabis because their brains are still developing. Though the evidence is not complete it is enough to say that it is safest for young people to avoid cannabis use.

So, it is not possible to say that drugs are always harmful. There is also the question of what is meant by harmful and what is acceptable. A very well-known professor from Imperial College London pointed out, a couple of years ago, that some people who ride horses get seriously injured and a few even die every year. That doesn’t mean we say horse-riding is harmful and try and stop anybody from riding a horse. Rather, what we do is to try and see how the harms occur and what can be done to reduce them.

Did you know that you can get riding jackets that have airbags similar to the ones in cars? If a rider is thrown from the horse, the jacket detects this and the airbag inflates before the rider hits the ground. So, people are able to have the pleasure of horse-riding but the chances of harm have been reduced.

Turning to the core of your question, ‘why do people sell them?’ the answer is simply that people want to buy them. I’ve never used any of the illegal drugs, and it is many years since I used the legal ones either, so I can’t explain why people want to use them but they do. Whenever there is something people want to buy there will be people who want to sell it to them to make a profit. If that profit is large enough, then people will ignore the risks involved in selling an illegal product.

The problem is that, since selling drugs is illegal, the people selling them don’t care who they sell to. If you went into a liquor store to try and buy beer, the store owner would not serve you because there are rules that say he cannot sell alcohol to someone of your age. But, if alcohol were illegal like drugs then the store owner would be happy to sell you beer and would, probably, try and get you to buy whisky instead because, being more concentrated, it would be easier for him to hide bottles of whisky rather than cases of beer.

It is not just drug sellers who don’t care about the harm they may cause. Tobacco companies and drinks manufacturers are well aware of the problems their products can cause but they find all sorts of arguments to justify their actions. Obesity is almost as much of a problem in the UK as it is in the USA, but companies still make very fatty foods and have promotions encouraging people to eat more so that they can make more profit. And arms companies sell weapons to governments who use them against their own people.

But, with legal products, the government can try and control the amount of harm caused. There can be rules about strength and about how much can be sold and who can buy and there can be monitoring to make sure that manufacturing standards are being met so that a product is as safe as it can be.

I wouldn’t say that the people who sell drugs are putting lives at risk every time but the point is that they don’t care whether there are risks or not. They just want to make the sale. Many of the people who sell drugs actually like that drugs are illegal because it reduces the number of people willing to sell them and means they can charge a higher price.

I don’t mean to show any disrespect to your dad but the reality is that, if the police make a successful raid on some drug dealers, the rest celebrate because they know the shortage that has been created will increase the price they can charge until new supplies arrive.  

Like most things in life, working out how best to manage the question of drugs is a very complex problem but, I believe, thinking it will go away just because it is illegal is never going to work.


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.