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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

December 2012

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Thursday 27th December 2012

Sometimes it is a bit tricky to sustain my stance of ignoring all anniversaries and annual events. Christmas is easy since I am an atheist so it has no religious significance and I am not a pagan so I see no need for a festival intended to encourage the sun to return.

New Year should be straightforward as the change is based purely on the arbitrary numbering system used to mark the passage of days and I realise that there is no difference between one minute to midnight on 31st December and one minute passed midnight on 1st January. That said, I do recognise that the list of events that will be labelled as having taken place in 2012 will soon come to an end. Given how significant many of those events have been, I thought I’d indulge in a little review of the year as far as the topics of interest to this website, poisonous plants and psychoactive substances, are concerned...more

Tuesday 25th December 2012

Though it had looked unlikely as late as noon, yesterday, I was able to travel to Edinburgh to watch Eugene Jarecki’s documentary, ‘The House I live In’. I’d read a lot about it and very much wanted to see it for myself.

The personal issues that threatened to force me to abandon my plans were weighing on my mind and, having not been to the cinema for nine years, I’d forgotten how much rubbish cinema audiences are forced to endure before the film they have paid to see begins. By the time it started I was very much of a mind to leave and return home as soon as the film became boring or the exposition of its points became trite...more

Monday 24th December 2012

Under the Doctrine of Signatures, Hyoscyamus niger, black henbane, was used for over 2,000 years as a treatment for toothache. The idea being that the mature seed pods lined along a stem look like a jawbone and a row of teeth.

When I talk about this alleged property of a poisonous, hallucinogen I refer to its use in Anglo-Saxon times in Britain because that adds the dimension of not just a belief in quackery but the way in which quacks are happy to exploit their victims for gain...more

Saturday 15th December 2012

It is that time of year, again. The time when those who celebrate Christmas decorate their homes with a variety of natural and manufactured articles and reports appear about the dangers posed by the natural decorations. Oddly, there is hardly ever a mention of the potential harm that the manufactured products could cause.

I’ve written before about Euphorbia pulcherrima, poinsettia, and the confusion many people get into over the difference between something being poisonous and being harmful. Again, this year, I’ve seen pieces asserting in the strongest possible terms that poinsettia is not poisonous because you would have to eat a great deal of it before getting sick...more

Monday 10th December 2012

The Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) has published the report of its extensive inquiry into drug policy. ‘Drugs: Breaking the Cycle’  was published at one minute past midnight today though, thanks to the Mail on Sunday claiming to have a leak rather than breaking the embargo, it had been widely discussed on Sunday.

I must begin by confessing that I was wrong. I’ve written about this inquiry five times before, see box for links, and on 28th March I said that I feared that the HASC might focus too much attention on the question of whether drugs should be a health or criminal justice problem and have a tendency to come down on the latter side because they feared losing an important area of policy...more

Friday 7th December 2012

I’ve just finished watching ‘Breaking the Taboo’ the new documentary about the work of The Global Commission on Drug Policy. The film was premiered in London on 5th December, in New York on the 6th and is now available, free of charge, for a month on YouTube.

The purpose of this entry is just to encourage you to watch the film in full though I will offer a few comments after..more

Tuesday 4th December 2012

I’ve been reading the Leveson Report. Actually, that’s not what I’ve been doing. ‘Reading’ may give the impression that I started at page 1 and finished at page 1987. I most certainly didn’t do that and I wonder just how many people have read the report in its entirety. I suspect that those with the luxury of having a large staff set a number of them to read different sections and provide a summary.

So I haven’t ‘read’ the report. Nor have I ‘skimmed’ it by flicking through every page to see what caught my eye. I’m not sure there is a word for the way I approached the report. What I’ve done is to select a number of keywords that could be related to my area of interest and use them to search the four volumes to see what came up. I then read the resulting sections in detail..more

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