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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Sunday 7th August 2011

The next time someone says to you ‘It’s a small world’ I suggest you tell them no it isn’t and invite them to read this blog entry. We all trot out this hackneyed expression and others like it but rarely actually give the matter any real thought.

The inclination to think the world is a small place comes because we struggle to deal with the simple fact that coincidence happens. We focus on the events that we think shouldn’t have happened without thinking about all the times when nothing surprising occurs.

I’m not immune from having, on a number of occasions, thought it was a small world. There was the time I took an American visitor to dinner on one of those boats moored on the Embankment in London. As we stepped off the boat someone I’d worked with ten years before passed on his nightly run. I thought it was a small world and my visitor, of course, had all his prejudices about London being ‘a quaint little town’ reinforced by the evidence that I knew everyone who lived there.

Or the time, having got my business finished unexpected early, I had some free time in Hong Kong and decided to ride the tram to the Victoria Peak only to find myself sitting next to a UK-based customer on a secret trip to have a job interview.

But events like this, and you’ll be able to think of plenty of your own examples, shouldn’t make us blind to the simple fact that it is NOT a small world; it is a huge world with many things going on it that we can never hope to experience for ourselves.

cannabis sativa, marijuana

The reason I’m writing about this is because of two recent, almost, unrelated stories. ‘Almost unrelated’ because they do share one common item; they both concern the growing of Cannabis sativa, marijuana.

The first is a picture story from Time magazine’s website about a cannabis plantation discovered in Mexico.  The plantation covered 120 hectares (300 acres) and was located in an area about 350Km from Tijuana. The whole site was covered in black netting and the photo story talks about the plants being partly concealed by the netting. But, given that there was no attempt to disguise the boundary so that, from above, a clear black rectangle can be seen suggests that the netting may have had some purpose other than as camouflage.

The farm was, apparently, discovered by a routine military patrol. Such patrols, say the reports, visit the area about every four months and it is said that the plantation wasn’t there during the previous visit. That may be so but it’s clear, from the permanent structures built to support the farm workers, that this was not intended to be a one crop then move on operation. You could say that it is not surprising that this site was not discovered before because it is in ‘the middle of nowhere’ but, in fact, it is only about 300Km from San Diego in California.

Not that residents in California need to go to foreign countries for their marijuana if the second story, some two weeks later, is anything to go by. US federal authorities discovered nearly half a million cannabis plants growing in the Mendocino National Forest north of San Francisco. Unlike the Mexican find, it seems that these plants were being grown on numerous separate sites, with some reports talking of ‘more than 50 gardens’ being discovered.

The authorities like to claim that Mexican drug cartels are behind most of the growing in California but, given that it took two weeks to conduct this operation and over 100 people were arrested, the idea that this was a co-ordinated project seems less likely. You would think that most of the people involved in the growing would have deserted their plants once the raids started if they were all working for the same cartel.

It does look a little as though the federal government deliberately targeted this area rather than the Mendocino Forest being the centre of cultivation for the USA. The local authorities in Mendocino have instituted a scheme of plant tagging, at $99 a tag, for cannabis being grown for medical use. Such use has been made legal in a number of states in the USA though federal law still says it is prohibited. It may be that the tagging scheme was becoming too successful in showing that cannabis can be integrated into regular society so the federal authorities decided to impose their view.

So, whether it’s a single large plantation in a quiet part of Mexico or numerous small plots in a US forest it just goes to show that the world is far too big to think that cannabis growing can be stamped out by interdiction.