Girls Fact Check: Is Opium Tea Legal?

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One of the reasons everyone seems to love HBO’s new Girls, like instantaneously, is its warts-and-all depiction of what it’s like to be a young, female and underemployed in the big city. But also, it is a fictional show written and acted for our entertainment. So there have got to be some things that are exaggerated, some facts twisted for the sake of putting Lena Dunham and company in the most uncomfortable, funny situations. And it’s not like the show, for adults, requires a Jackass-style “Don’t try this at home warning.” Still, we suspect that each episode will raise some questions about whether these things really happen. Yes, many 20-somethings are still living off their parents, some companies resort to delegating their Twitter accounts to the interns, and the kids these days are into very casual sex. No, we don’t think $1100 a month is a realistic budget for a young woman living in Brooklyn, though it can be done. But the most nagging question of all, for some of us, at least … Can you legally buy dried poppy pods in the flower district and get high off of the tea?

Well. No, it’s not legal. Every part of the plant but poppy seeds (the kind you plant to grow flowers and the kind on your bagel) is categorized as schedule II controlled substance by the federal government. Michael Pollan, famed food writer and gardener, wrote a really long article for Harper’s in 1997 about how the DEA views poppies. Basically, it’s illegal to grow them, but agents have more pressing laws to enforce. “It’s illegal to grow opium poppies,” an anonymous agent told Pollan, “but frankly I don’t see it becoming a big problem, only because it’s so labor-intensive to harvest the opium. You’ve got to go out early in the morning and slit the pods, then wait until the gum oozes out, and then you have to scrape it off pod by pod.”

There was also a fuss made a few years ago about kids buying regular poppy seeds and brewing them into tea, after a kid reportedly died of an overdose in Iowa. A lab report concluded that the tea he’d drank contained high amounts of morphine and codeine. So, that’s er, proof that it gets you high. And proof that it’s really hard to know how much opiates any given seeds are going to contain.

We don’t have time today to go down the the flower district (West 28th St., between 6th and 7th Aves.)
but if a simple Google Shopping search is any indication, yeah, this stuff is readily available for anyone willing to risk their credit cards for that kind of thing. As for what to do once you buy them, well, we’re not going to take service journalism that far, dude.

One thing we can say, is that we really don’t recommend talking to your parents after having a mugful.

[Photo: HBO]

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