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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

July 2013

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Saturday 27th July 2013

'Drug misuse: findings from the 2012 to 2013 CSEW' was published a couple of days ago. CSEW stands for Crime Survey England & Wales, the more accurate name for what used to be called the British Crime Survey (BCS).

The main purpose of the CSEW is to collect experiences of crime that don’t get into the reported crime figures as a means of dispelling all the stories about unreported crimes making the official police figures unreliable. At the same time, it asks about perceptions of crime so it can compare what people think is happening with what is actually happening...more

Sunday 21st July 2013
Summer in My Poison Garden

It's that time of year when some plants are still displaying colourful flowers while others have converted those flowers into fruit. In some cases, the same plant is displaying these two stages.

The Digitalis, foxglove, tends to have flowers at the top of its spike while seed is set lower down...more

Wednesday 17th July 2013
The khat is not out of the bag

The Select Committees of the UK parliament have regular sessions where the members question the minister responsible for the department concerned about recent activities. Yesterday, the Home Affairs Select Committee heard from Theresa May, Home Secretary.

The early part of the session was spent hearing from other officials and public servants and Theresa May’s questioning began at around 1:16. After spending 3 minutes wrapping up the Aba Qatada affair, the committee moved on to the subject of undercover policing and the practices that were followed. Nineteen minutes were spent on this before turning to Europe and particularly the previous day’s debate in the House of Commons about rejecting standardised European law and order processes...more

Monday 15th July 2013
Call me Mithridates

I love Centaurea Montana, knapweed. The flowers have a stunning blue colour, very intricate delicate structure and attract all sorts of pollinators in abundance.

The only drawback is that it tends to splay outwards dropping into all the surrounding plants and leaving a bare centre. It looks a bit like the bald spot on an ageing punk who still dyes his hair. I read that you can cut it back and get a second helping later in the summer so I thought I’d do that..more

Saturday 13th July 2013
…because every garden is a poison garden

One of the local villages had an ‘Open Gardens’ day to raise funds so, since the weather was excellent but too hot for doing any actual gardening, I went along to test my ability to find poisonous plants in any garden and justify the tagline I use for this site and my talks.

There were twenty gardens on show and I must be truthful and say I only scored nineteen out of twenty. That was because one of the ‘gardens’ was completely covered in gravel or decking since, according to the owner, her and her partner worked fulltime so wanted somewhere they could sit out in without needing a lot of work...more

Friday 12th July 2013
‘Is That Khat Dead?’

I make no apology for returning to the subject of Catha edulis, khat, because my fear is that the issue of scheduling it under the Misuse of Drugs Act will fade from the mainstream media until, in a year or so, someone decides to write a story about the increased unemployment in the Somali community in the UK or the effect on farmers in Kenya whose livelihood was removed with no chance to find alternative crops or the criminal gangs that have taken the place of tax-paying traders.

Because I was having a lot of trouble, on Saturday, producing my video about the ban on Catha edulis, khat, (I was using free software supplied with my PC that turned out to be worth every penny) I missed the obvious title choice that would enable me to do a bit of shameless promotion of my book. Luckily, YouTube allows for title changes so I went back and renamed it. You can see it here. ..more

Thursday 11th July 2013
Bread and Butter Drug Testing

There are some people who think that the more extensive drug-testing is the fewer people will use drugs. But, as other people point out, the trouble with drug testing is that Cannabis sativa, marijuana, is detectable in the system for a very long time, possibly weeks, whereas substances such as heroin are completely metabolised within about a day. That has been shown to lead people who are at risk of being tested choosing to avoid cannabis and use a much more harmful substance instead.

It is an aspect of drug-testing that comes up whenever some official body proposes extending testing in some way. It has come up in the last few days because the UK government has published draft regulations to implement the provisions of The Crime and Courts Act 2013 in relation to the new offence of ‘driving with a specified controlled drug in the body above the specified limit for that drug’...more

Wednesday 10th July 2013
Fear and Loathing in Rural England

It’s that time of year, again. The time when hysteria about Jacobaea vulgaris (syn. Senecio jacobaea), common ragwort, dominates the ‘horsey’ world. Click on that link for the plant page and a list of all the times I’ve blogged about this but, if you’ve read enough, don’t worry, I’m not going to repeat it all here.

But I did see a thread in the Horse and Hound forums that seemed to have wider significance. I often think that the things people believe about poisonous plants give an indication of attitudes to many other areas of life...more

Tuesday 9th July 2013
‘Pot’ Plants the Size of Wales

There’s a tendency amongst journalists to try and make numbers understandable by relating them to a completely unrelated object. Thus exceptional tumours are the size of an orange or, even, a water-melon. When talking about an area of land, the common standard is ‘the size of Wales’. Of course, it falls down because I have no better concept of what the size of Wales means that I do if some other place is ‘x times the size of Wales’.

That thought was sparked after a website decided to relate the total amount of Cannabis sativa, marijuana, seized in the USA to the number of joints per person that could be produced from it. That same site goes on to describe a number of other ways to represent the amount seized but none of them really tells me anything that I can get hold of..more

'Is That Khat dead?'
Saturday 6th July 2013

I keep finding new reasons for being angry about the UK government’s decision, announced by Home Secretary. Theresa May, to schedule Catha edulis, khat, as a Class C substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

I’m not angry at the decision itself. I’m just frustrated that we are still governed by people who think their prejudices trump all the available evidence. Theresa May still believes that prohibition works. You can’t get angry about that, well you can but it doesn’t achieve very much, because if someone is blind to all the reasoned arguments that show that prohibition makes the harm caused by psychoactive substances worse there’s little that can be done to change their view...more

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