Drug baroness: Cannabis and poppies will grow at Alnwick

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The Duchess of Northumberland is set to grow drugs including cannabis, opium poppies and magic mushrooms in her public garden, it was announced yesterday.

The Duchess of Northumberland is set to grow drugs including cannabis, opium poppies and magic mushrooms in her public garden, it was announced yesterday.

The plants, which will also include tobacco and the coca plant - the source of cocaine, will feature in an educational section of the 150-year-old Alnwick Garden in Northumberland.

A licence for the Alnwick Garden charity to grow the plants was approved by the Home Office but visitors to the garden will be escorted by marshals. The drugs will be grown alongside more than 50 dangerous plants including foxgloves and wild lettuce, which has tranquilising properties, in the country's largest public Poison Garden, designed by Belgian Peter Wirtz.

The Duchess of Northumberland, a trustee of the Alnwick Garden Trust, said: "The garden is more than the development of a beautiful place or a regenerative tourism venue. Drugs are a major concern across the country and an emotive issue. The Poison Garden will offer a new avenue, outside the classroom, to get people talking about the misuse of drugs - most of which grow in nature. I am interested in the power of plants and how they have been used throughout the ages to cure and to poison."

The garden project, which is now run by a trust, was begun by the Duchess of Northumberland. Although it is almost completed and will open within weeks, many of the plants will not appear until springtime.

Alison Hamer, Alnwick Garden's learning development manager, said that the thought of talking about drugs to younger family members or friends was quite scary. She said: "Evidence shows that young people are more likely to avoid or delay taking drugs if they talk openly with their parents or family members about the issue. The Poison Garden provides an innovative opportunity for us to deliver, in a relaxed atmosphere, simple information on drugs and drugs issues to a section of the public that can be hard to reach."

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