No more magic mushrooms for the Dutch
A Dutch law banning the possession and sale of magic mushrooms (hallucinogenic drugs) has come into force.
The Dutch parliament called for the ban after a 17-year-old French girl who had allegedly taken magic mushrooms jumped off a building and died last year. Until now there had been no restriction on the sale of the drug, which, being a natural product, was only subject to the same regulations as fruit and vegetables.
Details of the regulation are being made public on 1 December by the public prosecutor's office. It is still unclear who will enforce the new rules, and what legal sanctions offenders will face.
The powers of magic mushrooms have been known for centuries among native Americans. The Mazatecos tribe in Mexico's Oaxaca state use the hallucinogenic fungi for medical and religious reasons, and are allowed to so so by the Mexican authorities because it is a part of their culture.
The Mazatecos taught many Westerners the secrets of the product. The chemical compounds that cause the hallucinations are psilocybine and psilocine.
The countrywide association of Netherlands Municipalities, VNG, says the police are lacking the capacity to take on this additional task. VNG says it's the responsibility of the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority.
But this has become legally impossible because the mushrooms now fall under the remit of the so-called Opium Law, where it has been added to the list of illegal substances.
Opponents say it will make no difference
The new rules were proposed by Christian Democrat Health Minister Ab Klink. With the law in force, the possession and cultivation of hallucinogenic mushrooms has become illegal.
Opponents say that the law was introduced without due care, and that it will fail to make any difference. Sellers of the hallucinogenic mushrooms claim it has never been proven that the fungi were to blame for the fatal incident with the French girl.
Figures* from the Amsterdam health service show that over a two-year period, only 70 out of 200,000 mushroom-munching tourists needed medical help.
* Research in the Netherlands has shown that the use of psychedelic mushrooms does not create a physical addiction, nor a state of mental dependency on the drug. There is a small risk of acute poisoning if the safe dose of 15 grammes is exceeded.
The risk can be reduced by using the drug in a quiet, safe environment. Serious problems, however, are caused by using the mushrooms in combination with other drugs, including alcohol.
In the two years prior to 2007, the Amsterdam health service had to provide medical assistance or ambulance support to 70 mushroom users, 63 of whom were young foreign tourists. An estimated 200,000 people in the Netherlands used the drug over that period.
(Data from a 2007 report by the Dutch National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, RIVM)