Magic mushroom ban looms for smartshops

22nd October 2007, Comments 0 comments

22 October 2007, THE HAGUE (AFP) - Dutch so-called smartshops that sell hallucinogenic mushrooms, due to be banned by the Dutch government within months, say the measure is absurd and they will just move on to different drugs.

22 October 2007

THE HAGUE (AFP) - Dutch so-called smartshops that sell hallucinogenic mushrooms, due to be banned by the Dutch government within months, say the measure is absurd and they will just move on to different drugs.

"It is ridiculous! I don't understand how a Christian government can ban magic mushrooms that were created by God," Dutch Martijn, 21, told AFP in one of Amsterdam's legal cannabis cafes after admitting that he prefers marijuana.

Last week the ministers of Health and Justice jointly announced that the cultivation and sale of magic mushrooms will be banned.

The move came after a majority in Parliament pushed for a ban following a rising number of incidents with tourists who took the mushrooms.

In March a 17-year-old French girl died after she threw herself from an Amsterdam bridge. She had eaten magic mushrooms, but no formal link was established between the two occurrences.

Earlier this year the Amsterdam health authorities raised the alarm because they saw a significant rise in requests for medical assistance from tourists who had a bad reaction to the magic mushrooms in the last few years.

Many tourists in Amsterdam's city centre, where many smartshops and cannabis cafes --euphemistically called coffeeshops in the Netherlands -- are still unaware of the coming mushroom ban.

"The shrooms are top! I took some yesterday and went to the zoo .... Wow!," 25-year-old Englishman Adam told AFP.

"I wasn't aware of any danger from taking the magic mushrooms," he said, adding that you have to know how to use them.

"The smartshops tell you what to do, they give good advice," added Adam's travel companion, Kyra, 28.

Forty-year-old Andy from Germany said he was opposed to the measures.
"They shouldn't ban them but they should just not sell them to people under 18, they don't know how to handle it," he explained.

"We explain to people how to use the mushrooms. We tell them not to mix it with alcohol because that's what's dangerous," smartshop owner Jos told AFP.

In his tiny shop, in the middle of Amsterdam's famous Red Light District, glass cases are filled with plastic boxes of magic mushrooms labelled with a sticker that says "do not consume with alcohol."

"If the mushrooms are banned, they will just be sold on the black market, without any instructions," Jos fumed.

"Smartshops won't go away, we'll find something new to sell, more potent than the mushrooms. That's why it's absurd to ban them," he added.

"What's clear is that the market won't disappear, it will just move somewhere else," Freddy Schaap of the Dutch smartshop association VLOS told AFP.

"People are looking for thrills and they will try to find them elsewhere like with (illegal) LSD, which is a lot stronger. It's mad! You have a lot more control if you take magic mushrooms," he explained.

The sellers of magic mushrooms are reluctant to blame the tourists, their main customers, for the ban, but stress consumers have their own responsibility.

Amsterdam resident Stefan, 23, said that many tourists here think "Whatever, I'm on holiday" and go wild passing from pub to coffeeshop to smartshop.

"If you take drugs, you should know what you're doing. You should never mix mushrooms with alcohol, everybody knows that!" he said.

The VLOS says that most reported incidents with the mushrooms involve people who also drank a lot of alcohol. The association also points to the report of the health authorities which shows that there were almost 10 times as many reported incidents involving alcohol.

In Amsterdam in 2005 the health authorities were called 125 times for mushroom-related incidents while they treated 2,056 cases where alcohol was involved.

VLOS prefers a plan by the city of Amsterdam to impose a three-day waiting period to buy magic mushrooms, but with a majority of lawmakers supporting a ban, it is unlikely that the smartshops will be allowed to continue selling magic mushrooms.

[Copyright AFP 2007]

Subject: Dutch news

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