Yet another grab for power by the state over the citizen, in ways never mentioned in the Constitution. Today’s story is set here in Australia, but all readers around the world take note, because if this law succeeds here, its appearance cannot be long delayed in your country either.

Some background first. According to current Australian Commonwealth law, there are five types of plants, used in drug manufacture, that are scheduled as prohibited; that is, they cannot be imported, cultivated or possessed without appropriate permits: cannabis sativa (Indian hemp, marijuana and a hundred other names besides); erythroxylum coca (the coca leaf, used to produce cocaine); papaver bracteatum (Iranian poppy, the common source of synthetic opiates including thebaine); papaver somniferum (Turkish poppy, used for production of true opiates, or phenanthrene alkaloids, including morphine and heroin); and all fungi of the genus psilocybe that contain usable levels of the hallucinogens psilocin and psilocybin.

Interestingly, all of these plants are currently grown legally in Australia, under strict controls. You may recall me mentioning some time ago that Tasmania produces nearly half of all the world’s legally grown opium poppy, under a special international covenant. The harvested opium is sent to two factories (in England and the United States) to be refined into morphine and other opiates and synthetics such as thebaine, and shipped thence to hospitals around the world. Non-THC bearing strains of Indian hemp are being developed as potential commercial crops for food, textiles and fuel. And as any hippy on the New South Wales north coast can attest, “magic mushrooms” grow wild and can be found flourishing under just about any cow pat. To this day, the Coca-Cola Company uses coca leaves grown in Peru and Bolivia in the manufacture of its flagship product; though the leaves, imported under strict license by a US chemicals manufacture, now have the cocaine extracted and sent to pharmaceuticals companies, and are “spent” by the time they reach Coke.

The law in your own country is probably not too far different; most western jurisdictions adhere to some variation of the Green List of controlled substances scheduled under the United Nations 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. I’m sure Dr. Dave can give more detail on the legal status of these plants in the USA. I’m not going today into the advisability or otherwise of the legal status of these species; Dave has already covered this issue, far more eloquently than I ever could.

Today’s thread concerns a different issue altogether. Under the proposed legislation down here, that list is set to be expanded from five species to thousands. Every plant that can even theoretically be used to extract prohibited drugs, even if they are present only in trace amounts, are on the list. This despite the fact that you would have to grow entire fields of them to garner enough drugs for a single “hit”. Some of the species listed in this ridiculous proposal include:

  • All cacti species containing any amount of mescaline. This includes virtually all common garden species, those favoured by collectors and curators of public Botanic Gardens, and indeed many species growing wild;
  • All plants of the genus ephedra, which contain even trace quantities of ephedrine, whether extractable or not. The list includes the common fir, and species used in traditional Chinese medicine;
  • Wattles (Australia’s national flower!) contain trace amounts of the psychedelic agent DMT (dimethyltryptamine). Any species whose analysis displays trace quantities of DMT will be included on the list; we are talking here about thousands of species. The Ozboy estate is literally teeming with wild wattles, and this legislation will make a criminal out of me. Never mind that no-one has ever gone to the trouble of manufacturing DMT this way before, as it’s commercially unviable.

I'm apparently going into the drug business, courtesy of my government

I would have regarded this list as an ambit claim, except that public submissions to the Justice Minister have already closed, and he is recorded in today’s paper dismissing submissions critical of the legislation (including, presumably, my own) as “ridiculous”. Yeah, right. I see in this legislation a pretext for imposing ever-greater land use control on farmers, driven behind the scenes by a political party not even in government.

This is what both left-wingers and right-wingers need to understand about Libertarianism, and human nature in general. If you seriously believe you can allow your government to become jack-booted authoritarians in matters which happen to suit you (drugs for right-wingers, carbon tax for left-wingers) and then trust them to revert to benign, laissez-faire minarchists in all other matters, you are deluding yourself: once you allow the state to act towards its citizens in ways not strictly circumscribed by a well-written constitution, then the genie is out of the bottle. Once a precedent is set, they will go on taking more power, and more and more, into areas you had no intention at all in the beginning of allowing them to intrude. Paranoia? No—human nature. Pick up today’s paper and read about it on almost any page.

That is why all Australians should oppose this legislation, even if they feel it does not impact them directly. Or even if they support drug prohibition more generally. And why those of you reading this in other countries should be on your guard, because without doubt your own governments are watching intently, to see if the totalitarian-minded administration Down Under can get away with it.

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13 Responses to Cactoblastis

  1. Amanda says:

    Oz, very quickly since it is past 2 am my time: thanks for the post, and of course what your government wants is an abomination to be fought by unenslaved people living there … or anywhere.
    However I must take issue with the chart that claims to show that conservatism is about economic freedom but (relative) personal restriction. I do not find this to be the case in The United States. To the contrary, it is mainly leftists/liberals that wish to constrain people, under the guise of what is ‘good’ for them: pregnant women may never drink, no one should ever smoke anywhere, everyone should have cancer screen no matter what the personal or public cost (e.g. pap tests for a rare cancer, with more false positive than true negatives, which women are routinely coerced into undergoing in order to obtain contraception, etc.). Then in England we have absurd laws meant to protect children, in which it is illegal for mums to babysit other mums’ children (friends’ children) unless they are vetted by the police and are entered in a national registry, at their cost; it is left-liberalism that has fed the tort law and the trial lawyers’ abuse of common sense such that absurd rules govern and constrain us all, in matters big and small.

    Conservatives believe that adults should be treated as such. Extreme liberalism wants to treat adults as children at best and mental deficients at worst. One is freer within a regime moderated by conservative notions than one is under leftist beliefs.

    G’day Amanda. I know it’s late over there but no, the Nolan Chart doesn’t say that. In fact, the Nolan Chart leaves out conservatism altogether; I deal with conservatism in the text above and below the chart. That said, your points about government intrusion into personal matters are quite valid. Your government seeks to re-define what is “personal” – Oz

  2. Amanda says:

    By the way, when I said ‘unenslaved’ in the above post: enslavement in this case is a state of mind. Some people submit willingly to conformity, unaware of what they are really giving up… and what will be lost further down the line.

  3. Dr. Dave says:

    Aw Shucks, Ozboy…did you post this just for me? This is like red meat for me. I rail against the tyranny of both the Left and the Right on this issue. In reality both sides wish to control that which is not theirs to control. Tell me why it should be acceptable to brew your own beer in your basement for personal consumption yet be against the law to grow your pot or mushrooms. The core issue is liberty. Although I personally enjoy beer (in fact I’m enjoying a locally brewed pale ale right now), I have no personal interest in marijuana or psilocybin mushrooms (or mescaline or LSD or MDMA). Then again, I don’t see myself as a “gatekeeper” for these substances. And we’ve all seen the damage beer can cause when not consumed sensibly. We going to ban that too? Oz

    Why should anyone on the Right or Left have the right to determine what you may or may not ingest?

    Some of the plants you mention are really fussy about the climate in which they will survive. The Coca plant, for instance, can only survive under certain conditions of heat, humidity, soil temperature and atmospheric pressure. “Psychedelic” mushrooms only grow in very specific locations (usually warm and wet). Peyote cactus only thrives along the Rio Grande south of where I live although other cacti produce mescaline. Marijuana and opium poppies will grow damn near anywhere.

    It’s late here and I need some sleep. I’ll wait for this comment thread to ripen before I add more commentary.

  4. meltemian says:

    I have to admit I laughed when I first read this, it’s just so ridiculous, but actually you are quite right it’s really quite sinister! The amount of control that your government are proposing ‘for your own good’ is moving into areas that are none of their business.
    Arundo donax grows everywhere here and we couldn’t do without it – we use it for canes to grow vegetables and fruit (you won’t find a Greek PAYING for canes) and the prickly-pear just grows wild. The fruit is sold in shops and supermarkets although I don’t know why anyone buys it, I suppose it’s because they have the prickles removed for them, they’re a bugger if you get them impaled in your hand!!
    I’m not going to go on about all the other species they want to outlaw but I think the Seed Bank at Kew might have something to say……

  5. Dr. Dave says:


    This simply has to be an underhanded ploy to give government bureaucracy more control over land use. Lots of different cacti contain trace amounts of mescaline but VERY few produce enough of it to be useful. I didn’t know ephedra even grew in OZ. But so what? Ephedrine is not really a psychoactive drug. It can be converted to methamphetamine. DMT is a real oddball. In Brazil the cook up a brew with vines of several plants that contain a high concentration of DMT. They also add other stuff that contain natural MAO inhibitors. Still, folks who consume it almost always puke. Drugs that almost always produce nausea and vomiting are not all that popular.

    This begs a fundamental question. Is DMT a popular drug of abuse in OZ? Has anyone ever been caught growing epheda, extracting the ephedrine and converting that into methamphetamine? Does anyone eat any native species of cactus to get high? It sounds like a very invasive solution to a non-problem.

  6. farmerbraun says:

    Meanwhile, back in (world leading) Godzone:

    The Government’s full response to the recommendations of the Māori Affairs Committee report, following an inquiry into the tobacco industry and the effects of tobacco use among Māori, was tabled in Parliament today.

    “This is a landmark moment in the history of New Zealand,” says Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia.

    “It is about us asserting our own identity as a nation and defining for ourselves the role tobacco is allowed to play in the life of this country – this is not something we are just going to leave in the hands of the tobacco industry.”

    The inquiry ran throughout 2010 with the Māori Affairs Select Committee receiving 260 submissions, 96 oral submissions and over 1700 letters throughout the process. This led to forty-two recommendations from the Select Committee, which the Government has responded to in full today.

    “I congratulate the Māori Affairs Select Committee for the work it has done.

    The response signals a bold step forward as the Government continues to accord priority to tobacco reduction and commits to the challenging goal of seeing Aotearoa become a nation that is essentially smokefree by 2025,” says Mrs Turia.

    In its response the Government has agreed to:

    the goal of supporting New Zealand to become a smokefree nation by 2025
    develop appropriate mid-term targets for reducing tobacco consumption and smoking rates towards achieving this goal
    consider legislative amendments concerning the promotion, packaging, and display of tobacco products through the Smoke-free Environments (Controls and Enforcement) Bill which is currently before the House
    review information disclosure regulations for tobacco products and consider implementing a more stringent regime regarding information about the additives in tobacco products
    investigate using existing regulatory powers to reduce the use of additives and nicotine levels, as a possible next step following the work on information disclosure
    investigate measures relating to the supply and availability of tobacco, once New Zealand has made more progress to reduce smoking rates.
    “The Government’s response looks to build on the existing programme of tobacco control initiatives already underway and the success that has been achieved.

    “It’s about challenging ourselves to take the next step without losing the momentum that we’ve already created,” says Mrs Turia.

    “I am absolutely committed to reducing tobacco related harms and the massive health inequalities that smoking brings,” says Mrs Turia.

    “There is still so much to be done, but I’m more confident than ever that we can reach the goal of New Zealand being a nation free of tobacco.”

    Hon Tariana Turia, Associate Minister of Health, media release 14 March 2011

  7. Dr. Dave says:


    Our tyrannical statists here in the US have a love-hate relationship with tobacco. They hate that any adult may choose to smoke tobacco if he or she wishes but at the same time they love the tax revenues they get from tobacco. A few years back flavored cigarettes were sold in the US. I would see the little tins at gas stations and convenience stores. A neighbor of mine used to smoke one brand that was menthol with mandarin orange. He would save the empty tins for me. They were great storage for screws, nuts, washers, etc. A ran into him about a year ago and asked if had any more tins for me. He said no. The federal government had passed legislation banning the sale of all flavored cigarettes except menthol. Just this last week I heard on the news that they’re now considering banning menthol cigarettes based on the specious claim that young people are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes. So what? They’re adults.

    Also in the news this week, 4 or 5 states in the northeast are considering LOWERING their cigarette taxes to attract smokers from surrounding states to come to their states to buy cigarettes…for the tax revenues.

    One might argue that nicotine is addictive and smokers can’t help but smoke. Mostly people smoke because they want to. If they banned tobacco in the US by legislative fiat they would create a huge black market almost overnight. You might want to get in early on your NZ cigarette smuggling plans. Maybe learn to grow tobacco now and hone your skills.

  8. Dr. Dave says:


    I hope I’m not flogging a dead horse here. I spent quite a while with the excellent link you provided. I had to look up a lot of the genus names. I’m a bit taken aback that Australia is more hard-ass than the US on this issue. A few states immediately banned Salvia divinorum as soon as they learned that a few folks were enjoying it. It’s damn near impossible to ban because so many species of Salvia are common garden plants in this country. Further, the drug really didn’t catch on like wildfire and “destroy our youth and wreck our families”. So far the DEA has ignored it and except in a few states you legally grow it, buy it, sell it and use it.

    You can legally buy, sell or grow San Pedro cactus…but if you grind up 2 lbs of it, cook it for a few hours and then drink (and manage to keep down) the resulting green slime you are breaking the law by deliberately attempting to ingest mescaline. Obviously this is not an enforceable law, but mescaline (even in the form of peyote) doesn’t present much of a threat as a “dangerous drug of abuse”. In southern California people have huge “hedges” of San Pedro cactus. Nobody sneaks onto their property at night and cuts them down to sell in the illegal mescaline trade. I bought a couple of cacti which I later learned were San Pedro as house plants. I bought them because they grow fast and they don’t have obnoxious spines or hairs.

    Datura species grow everywhere. They’re considered toxic. The alkaloids they contain are widely used in medicine. They’re potent anticholinergics. We see occasional accidental poisonings (usually in children) but they’re not exactly drugs of abuse. Shoot, we even have psychoactive toads out here in the southwest and nobody seems interested in banning them.

    I remember reading about DMT years ago. It has to be smoked or injected or it will be rapidly inactivated by MAO in the gut. It is very short acting. The trick of consuming natural MAO inhibitors was figured out by Brazilian Indians centuries ago. This allows DMT to be orally active and longer acting. With the exception of psilocyben, almost all the indolamine hallucinogens cause nausea and vomiting. You won’t learn that from the fawning authors who scripted the Wikipedia entries. I had no idea just how ubiquitous DMT is in nature.

    I don’t know if Morning Glory is grown in OZ, but if consumed in sufficient quantity, the seeds contain hallucinogenic ergot alkaloids. No one has banned Morning Glory here in the US. The same is true for nutmeg.

    In the USA today, hallucinogens constitute just a tiny fraction of total illicit drug use. This includes mescaline, psilocyben, DMT, LSD, MDA, etc. Aside from alcohol and tobacco, marijuana is by far the used illicit drug. It is followed by cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and MDMA (i.e. ecstasy). I would imagine a similar situation exists in Australia.

    One can only conclude that this proposed legislation has almost nothing to do with the illicit drug trade. When was the last time you read about someone getting busted for dealing DMT? Man…and I thought we nuts in this country! At least here in the US we use the EPA and the Endangered Species Act to deprive landowners the use of their own property.

    Excuse me while I take a couple hits of Acacia…

  9. Kitler says:

    Dr Dave as for Nutmeg I don’t recommend anyone trying it because if you take too much it will kill you. However the nutmeg in your cupboard is harmless as the aromatic oils are gone.

  10. Kitler says:

    Ozboy if they are using this for a land grab to save the cane toads where is Australia going to get it’s food from? Or will the land be given to big agricultural concerns and squeeze out the small land holders and give them a monopoly on food production. Also meaning no one can be self sufficient and must rely on the state to be allowed to eat.

    Truer than you realise. Right now Australia, with a population of 22 million, feeds 60 million people. We’re one of the few countries in the world that is completely food-independent. This fact bugs the totalitarians in my country no end, as their planned grip on power depends entirely on international collectivism and global interdependence; independence is anathema to them. So, there’s a long-range plan in place to chip away at our currently food-secure position. Using spurious environmental pretexts, they are passing law after law designed to force farmers off the land, and reduce our national agricultural output. It’s crushing Australian rural society in the process and turning many formerly thriving farming communities into ghost towns.

    I’ll leave it at that for now, as food security is a topic LibertyGibbert will be visiting later this year, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself today – Oz

  11. Kitler says:

    Then this should interest people….

  12. Dr. Dave says:


    I saw that article. I’m not sure I totally agree but I think in the US (at least) we should take a clear headed, objective look at the situation and re-evaluate what we’re doing.

    I think it’s bizarre that the UK might be even remotely considering decriminalizing drugs while OZ is considering criminalizing grasses, shrubs, trees and cacti because they naturally contain trace quantities of “banned substances”.

    I did a little internet searching this weekend and found sites where someone in the US can legally purchase DMT containing plants. You can even buy the natural MAO inhibitor plants and brew up your very own batch of barfogenic hallucinogenic tea. One of these sites sells leaves of Psychotria viridis from South America. They don’t bother to ban it because, although theoretically one could cook this crap up and get high, almost nobody does. It’s a non-problem. That’s what makes Ozboy’s article all the more disturbing. The Australian government wants bureaucratic control over property owners’ land based on the specious claim that some plants may contain “banned substances”. This is ridiculous! In the US nobody cares if you have Datura species growing on your property or Salvia divinorum or San Pedro cactus or any of the DMT containing plants. They only get upset when you attempt to extract drugs from them which you intend to sell. Psilocybin mushrooms grow all over the southeast USA and all along the west coast. They’re quite natural, native species. Nobody is going to bust a Louisiana dairy farmer for psilocybin mushrooms growing around his cow patties. You can legally grow opium poppies as long as you’re not harvesting opium (poppies all look the same to me). Nobody is going to bust a rancher in SW Texas or southern NM because peyote grows wild on his property.

    There are restrictions on the importation, growth, propagation, sale, use or possession of certain exotic, non-native species (e.g. Tabermanthe iboga, Catha edulis). But anybody growing these is growing them for a reason and not a legal one. I don’t know but I think it may be impossible to grow Erythroxylum coca anywhere in the US (except perhaps Hawaii). The plant needs a combination of hot, humid and altitude just like a lot of fine coffees.

    What’s going on in Australia is truly worrisome. Right now our EPA teams up with biology department grad students at universities to go out and “discover” endangered species so they can use the legal system to deprive land owners the use of their own property. It’s really gotten out of hand. A species may even be abundant in the nation as a whole but now “endangered” in a certain area. God help us if they ever team up with the DEA along with biology and pharmacognacy grad students to seize privately held land.

  13. Luton Ian says:

    Food as a weapon anyone?

    Check out the Wikipedia entry for Malcolm Muggeridge.

    Dr Dave, I gather you now need a license to grow “food” in the US?

    I couldn’t agree more with your assessment, powers will be used to their fullest extent – and then some more.

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