Photo: New teachers to Central Australia were confused to receive the 'not a pot' pot plant. (Supplied)
New teachers to Alice Springs have been given an anti-cannabis pot plant as a welcome gift from the Education Department in a move that has baffled teachers and the education union.
The promotional item encouraged users to grow thyme instead of marijuana at their office desk, and urged them to seek help and information about addiction and the side effects of cannabis use.
It was included in a care pack for teachers embarking on their first posting in the Northern Territory.
A teacher who did not want to be identified said they had no idea whether the pot plant was intended for them or their students, or what message the department was trying to send.
"I thought it was a bit of a joke," they said.
"I thought it was a teaching resource — that was my initial thought — to use with the kids.
"But hopefully my students aren't that addicted."
Australian Education Union NT president Jarvis Ryan said the plant was an "odd" inclusion.
"Certainly it would be very strange if we had any teachers — or anyone in an office environment, for that matter — that was growing marijuana in one of their office plants," he said.
"On the surface it strikes me as a particularly unusual thing to include, it's a bit unclear what message it's trying to send."
Plant may have been reminder on varying marijuana laws
Centralian Middle School principal Paul van Holsteyn said he was not aware of the promotional gift.
"We all need a bit of extra thyme in our lives," he joked.
"But I have no knowledge of that."
Mr Ryan said there was no evidence of teachers using drugs or cannabis in Central Australia, but he did wonder if the Education Department was trying to make teachers aware of the laws around cannabis use in the Northern Territory.
"We typically take in a large number of teachers at the beginning of each year, they come from all over Australia and in some cases outside Australia," he said.
"The specific laws on marijuana, cultivation use and possession can vary somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction."
It said the plant may have been a reminder that there could be criminal penalties for possession and use of marijuana.
"We have many people being posted to remote communities which are often designated as prescribed communities with particular penalties associated with bringing into those communities prohibited substances," Mr Ryan said.
Education Department admits to 'innocent mistake'
The promotional material that accompanied the pot plant directed users to a cannabis information and support website that promoted a quit cannabis app, and provided information about being under the influence while driving or at work.
The website also included a section for teachers with online resources for classroom education.
The Education Department said including the cannabis pot plant was an "innocent mistake".
In a statement, it said it provided new Alice Springs teachers with a welcome pack which included information about the department, as well as information from several community organisations, businesses and government agencies.
"One of the items included in the pack was a drug awareness message containing a small five-centimetre pot and thyme seeds," it said.
"The item was provided by the Department of Health and is designed for the general community, not specifically for teachers."
Originally published here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-29/nt-teachers-baffled-by-anti-marijuana-pot-plant-gift-government/9371774