Magic mushrooms ban upheld
Dutch magic mushroom vendors lost a court bid against the ban on the hallucinogenic fungi on Friday.28 November 2008
THE HAGUE – Magic mushrooms will be banned in the Netherlands from Monday in the most recent clampdown on recreational drug use by the reputedly liberal Dutch.
A body representing vendors of the hallucinogenic fungi lost a court bid Friday to halt a health ministry ban on their cultivation and sale as debate rages about the hitherto tolerant Dutch approach to so-called soft drugs.
"This is bad news for us," Paul van Oyen, a spokesman for the vendors' association VLOS told AFP. "We are highly disappointed."
The district court in The Hague dismissed a VLOS bid for an urgent interdict against the ban, which the association claims is groundless and unfair.
"We are sure we have a strong case. To justify this ban, the minister has to prove that the mushrooms pose a danger to public health. He hasn't been able to do so."
The association's 50-odd members would meet soon to decide whether or not to lodge an appeal, added Van Oyen. The health ministry said it would comment after studying the ruling.
The ban introduced by Health Minister Ab Klink will stop the cultivation and sale of fresh hallucinogenic mushrooms, which grow naturally in the wild in several areas, from 1 December.
A total of 186 species of shrooms or paddos will become illegal from Monday, with more expected to follow later. The dried variety has been illegal in the country for several years.
Klink believes consumption of the fungi, sold in the Netherlands in so-called smart shops, "can lead to unpredictable and risky behaviour".
His ban follows the death of a French teenager who had taken mushrooms before jumping to her death from an Amsterdam bridge in March 2007, reigniting a national debate over tolerance of the substance and prompting lawmakers to call for a ban.
According to Amsterdam health services, where a quarter of the country's smart shops are to be found, more than 90 percent of the 1.5 million to two million doses consumed every year are bought by foreign tourists.
VLOS says there are six growers in the Netherlands, 180 smart shops, and a few hundred employees in an industry with an annual turnover of EUR 15 to EUR 20 million.
Dutch media reports that several political parties are becoming more critical of the Netherlands' tolerant approach to such things as legal prostitution and the use and sale of soft drugs like mushrooms and marijuana.
The Netherlands decriminalised the consumption and possession of under five grams of cannabis in 1976. Its cultivation, however, remains illegal.
The Netherlands hosts a total of 702 so-called coffee shops - establishments with special licences to sell cannabis.
Last week, the southern Dutch city of Maastricht incurred the ire of nearby Belgian towns by opting to move its seven coffee shops closer to the border to dilute the nuisance it claims is caused by drug tourism.
Roosendaal and Bergen-op-Zoom, two other southern Dutch municipalities close to the Belgian border, have announced they will close their coffee shops from 1 February 2009.
In another example of what is seen by many as an increasingly patronising government approach to public morality, smoking was banned from public places on 1 July.
[AFP / Expatica]