A reader writes:
I don't think it's entirely accurate to describe something as extensively bred and manipulated as marijuana as "a naturally occurring weed," any more than it would be to say the same of the latest prize-winning hybrid tea rose. You're talking about something intensively cultivated, messed with, genetically tweaked. If it were legal, most of those fancifully-named varietals in the dispensaries would have patents attached to them, just like all the mint varietals at, say, Richters.com, an herb specialist in Canada.
Speaking of Richters, here's what they have to say about opium poppies:
Because opium poppy seeds are used in baked goods and other foods, they are legal to possess and use in most countries. But growing the plants, even if only for seeds or as an ornamental flower, may not be strictly legal in many of those same countries. Still, a long history of cultivation in flower gardens suggests that authorities choose to overlook the plants as long as they are not grown for opium. If you have any concerns about the legal status of growing these poppies in your garden, please seek legal advice before planting.
There are lots of things Richters says it can't legally ship to the US. Some are just invasive pests (e.g. kudzu), but others are banned as psychotropic drugs of one kind or another. Whether this is just Richters being cagey, or an actual US government ban, I don't know. But it's simply not true that there's no legal cloud over other psychotropic plants. Peyote? Coca? "Magic mushrooms"? Ma huang?
And I don't get the significance of your "without processing" disclaimer. It is supposed to matter that all you need to do with MJ is set it on fire, as opposed to those tedious fermentation processes you have to use with hops and grapes, or whatever the hell is involved in making cocaine and heroin? What possible moral difference can that make?
Another passes along the above video and writes:
Botany of Desire has a fascinating segment on cannabis. Starting at 12:30 they explain how cannabis has evolved. "The key to that transformation was stripping away the rule of nature and replacing it with our own."
Regarding your statement that "we do not ban poppies in America, even though some could be processed for opium" - actually, poppies are illegal in the US, though it's weirdly and subjectively enforced. Michael Pollan wrote a great article about it.
We do not ban poppies generally, but we do ban opium poppies. In 19th century America, opium poppy was a popular ornamental, and came in different colors. It grows taller than other species of poppy, and gives a brilliant display of flowers. Then growing it in your flower garden was banned.
As for poisonous mushrooms, many of them require tree partners to grow, and the cultivation techniques have not been worked out. For example, try intentionally growing amanita phalloides, aka "the destroying angel" (severe liver damage in every bite! Delicious too.) If you should succeed, you should try to get a masters thesis in botany out of it. People have repeatedly tried and failed to grow morels, which are edible, delicious, and highly sought after by gourmets. (I found some once in the woods and had them fried in butter. Niiice.)
Problem? In nature, they grow symbiotically in the company of trees. So, intentional cultivation of many species of poisonous mushrooms, or many non-poisonous species such as morels and truffles, is not the potential problem you make it out to be. The mushrooms we do know how to cultivate came to be cultivated because people took the effort to figure it out due to market demands, and without fail, they are not the kind of mushrooms which form symbiotic relationships with plants.
You wrote, “We do not ban poison ivy, or inflict legal penalties for those who have it in their yards.” That is not entirely true. In Minnesota, for example, “noxious weeds” are banned by statute. Poison ivy and hemp are among the 11 designated plants (PDF). Landowners technically have a legal responsibility to eradicate. Of course, in reality, no one is ever punished for failing to spray poison ivy.
I understand that current marijuana crops are highly horticulturalized products. But my point remains: it can still exist as a simple weed. I stand corrected, however, on the banning of various plants, and vastly more informed on this whole topic because of Dish readers's knowledge and expertise. Thanks.