Every university student should read Professor Nutt’s new book ‘Drugs Without the Hot Air’. They may not remember Professor Nutt as the man who was sacked from the government’s Drug Advisory Council because he said, truthfully, that taking ecstasy was safer than riding a horse, but they’ll be grateful for his calm advice on which are the best drugs to go for. There’s no doubt, he says, that alcohol is one of the most dangerous.
In the chapter on cannabis he says that the plant has three lives: as a fibre (hemp), as a medicine and as a pleasure drug. He’s wrong, there’s a fourth – as a garden plant. Here’s how William Robinson describes it in ‘The Subtropical Garden’ (1871): “This well known plant is useful where the tender subtropical plants cannot be enjoyed. Single well-grown plants of it look very imposing and distinct and are good for the backs of borders or mixed groups”. In The English Flower Garden, published in 15 editions between 1883 and 1933, and considered the “bible” of gardening during that time, he says; “Cannabis loves a warm sandy loam and is one of the few plants that thrive in small London gardens”. One of the London gardens where it undoubtedly did thrive was Buckingham Palace. As Professor Nutt points out, Queen Victoria was very fond of it, and her doctor, J R Reynolds prescribed it to her to help with period pains and childbirth and wrote a paper* in which he said: “When pure and administered carefully it is one of the most valuable medicines we possess”.
If only I’d known this when I was at university, I might have given it a go; as it is, I’ve had a life long aversion to all forms of smoking. But I would like to grow this imposing sub-tropical plant in my garden – the only problem is that when I look for Cannabis Sativa on the RHS Plantfinder website my search comes up with the message: “No such plant”.