Friday, March 4, 2011

Australia, what have you been smoking?

Last week, I read that in an effort to curb illegal drugs the Australian government wants to ban thousands of plants that contain either mescaline or dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a naturally-occurring hallucinogen that is ubiquitous in nature. At first glance this sounds like a good thing, considering that the government is supposed to look out for the welfare of the people. However, at closer examination, I was at first amused, then startled and finally p**** off to discover that this looks like government interference—or should I say arrogance?—taken to a whole new level.

Golden wattle (Acacia pycnantha), Australia’s state flower,
about to become illegal?

The Australian government plans to prohibit all plants that have even the tiniest amounts of these substances, never mind that (a) neither DMT nor mescaline play a role in the illegal drug trade, and (b) most of the plants on the list contain only such tiny amounts that it would be virtually impossible to extract enough for drug use. The list of plans to be banned is so extensive that virtually every nursery and gardener in Australia would be affected. The following would be prohibited:

  • All brugmansia and datura species—no more angel’s (or devil’s) trumpets down under!
  • Angel’s trumpets soon to fall silent?
  • All cacti species that contain even tiny trace amounts of mescaline—no more prickly pears for you, or saguaros, or mammillarias (the largest cactus genus), or hundreds of other popular cacti.
    Prickly pear to land you in jail?
    As if getting glochids in your skin wasn’t bad enough!
  • No more wattles and wattle-relatives—this includes not only Australia’s state flower, the golden wattle (Acacia pycnantha), and other acacias, but also many plants we’re familiar with in the U.S., such as delosperma (a very popular ice plant—I have several in my front yard), giant reed (Arundo dondax), and all wisterias—yes, wisterias! I bet you didn’t know you could get high off of wisteria!
No more wisterias for desperate housewives?

And the list goes on.

This website has a wealth of information on the proposed legislation and its disastrous effects on gardening in Australia. This article has a more humorous take. And this article quotes a prominent biodiversity advocate, Robyn Francis, who says:

“It’s just crazy. One of the species on the list is a common agricultural weed – is every farmer who has that growing on their land liable to be imprisoned because they’re growing ‘commercial quantities’?

“And what about all our local wattles [acacias], which just grow up by themselves as pioneer species – it means ecology suicide to enforce things like this and it’s unrealistic.”

Since I’m not an Australian citizen, I can’t really do anything about this, but if you reside in Australia, I urge you to let Brendan O’Connor, the Minister of Justice, know what you think. Garden Freedom has a handy contact form.

It’s easy to laugh at this, but don’t think for a second our own government—Democratic or Republican—isn’t capable of going down a similar path.

Image source: All images from Wikipedia.

3 comments:

  1. This is crazy. We had a similar thing here recently with some legislation that would "make home gardens illegal". Of course it turned out to be a misinterpretation of the proposed bill, and I wonder if something like that is happening here?

    BTW, did you take all of those photos? If so, you've got a nice archive of photos to pull from. =)


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  2. Alan, I don't think this is a misinterpretation of the proposal. It's created a huge outcry in Australia and all over the world judging from the many articles that have been posted about this. Let's hope that common sense will prevail.

    The photos are from Wikipedia. See the (small) credit line at the bottom of my post.

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  3. I've heard about this, never found out if it went through or not. Ridiculous, botanical racism.

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