Netherlands imposes total ban on 'magic' mushrooms

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The Independent Online

After the trip, the come-down. Holland –famed for its lax drug laws – announced yesterday it was banning the sale of "magic" mushrooms, polarising Dutch opinion and spoiling the party for many.

"We intend to forbid [their] sale," announced the Dutch Justice Ministry spokesman, Wim van der Weegen. "That means shops caught doing so will be closed."

The move comes after a series of high-profile incidents involving those using the drug in The Netherlands. In March, a 17-year-old French girl on a school trip to Amsterdam ate the drug before jumping from a bridge over a canal in the city. She died, and the case resulted in a majority in the Dutch Parliament calling for a total ban on all forms of the drug.

Since then, a media debate has raged over that and other cases, including that of an Icelandic tourist who broke both legs jumping from a balcony and a Danish tourist veering his car wildly through a camp site.

Magic mushrooms – otherwise known as psilocybe – contain psychedelic chemicals psilocin and psilocybin. The latter has been illegal under international law since 1971, and dried magic mushrooms – in which the chemicals are more potent – are banned in the Netherlands, but fresh ones are allowed.

A similar loophole – involving fresh magic "shrooms" - was closed in the UK by the Drugs Act of 2005.

Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin told reporters in The Hague that mushrooms "will be outlawed the same way as other drugs".

"The way we will enforce the ban is through targeting sellers," he added.

Users of the fresh mushrooms can experience a range of effects including – if they are lucky – giggling fits, an enhanced sense of colour and hallucinations. But negative effects – on a "bad trip" – can include paranoia, anxiety and vomiting. The drugs are not addictive but can have damaging effects on the brain, many anti-drugs campaigners believe.

Mr van der Weegen said that the unpredictability of all mushrooms meant that a total ban was necessary.

A supplier, Murat Kucuksen - whose farm produces about half the magic mushrooms on sale in the in the whole country - expressed regret that he stood to lose several million euros as a result of the ban.

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