In a week when history was made in France with the first ever bill tabled that would legalise cannabis, you would have thought all talk about highs would have revolved around the words pot or marijuana.
But instead it has been the common hydrangea plant that has dominated the drug related news this week, with some news sites asking whether “Hydrangeas are the new cannabis” in France (see below).
All talk of smoking hydrangea petals stems from reports that a gang of robbers were targeting gardens in the north of the country pulling up the plants by the dozen.
The "Hortensia Gang" as they have been dubbed, after the plant's other name, left garden owners across the north fuming.
“This problem is not normal, people are going onto private property, it has to stop,” one victim of hydrangea theft told La Voix du Nord newspaper. “The more we talk about it the more it will be taken seriously,” he said.
His was not an isolated incident either.
“Many of my staff have been affected, the whole town council too,” the mayor of Aix-en-Issart told La Voix du Nord.
In fact dozens of reports of thefts have of hydrangeas have been made to police around the area forcing police to open an investigation.
Captain Frédéric Evrard, spokesperson for the Nord-Pas-de-Calais regional gendarmerie blamed the economic crisis.
"With the crisis we have the impression people are now turning towards natural products, because synthetic ones are more expensive,e he told Le Figaro newspaper.
The thefts have sparked fears that a craze that began in Germany, where hydrangeas are regularly pilfered from gardens, has crossed the border into France. It centres around rumours that when dried, the petals of the hydrangea plant, offer a similar high to cannabis if they are rolled up and smoked in a joint.
Last year our colleagues at The Local Germany reported how the craze sparked up in Bavaria.
Laurent Karila a psychiatrist specialising in addictions told France’s Metro News that when smoked a hydrangea plant can indeed have “hallucinogenic and euphoric” effects.
Certain molecules in the plant can be similar to hallucinogens contained in cannabis, the expert added but said that no clinical trials have been carried out that offer proof to that theory.
Mention of hydrangeas has also popped up on several online forums for drug users.
“I first noticed I was very relaxed, so I continued to smoke it, then I was so stoned I had to lie down. For what it’s worth I would not recommend it,” said one commenter named KGB1977 on the website Schroomery.org.
But others in the know were keen to issue warnings about smoking hydrangea petals.
“It’s not a herb that will make you laugh,” said the vice president of SOS addictions. “It has potentially harmful side affects for the health that can lead to digestive, respiratory or heart problems.”