Smartshops fear ban on 'magic' mushrooms

9th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

In recent years, the famously liberal Netherlands has been swinging toward the right, cracking down on immigration, religious freedoms and the freewheeling red light district. Now Amsterdam store owners fear a ban on ‘magic’ mushrooms.

There are more than 200
kinds of magic mushrooms.
(Photo by Serena Konig)

The death in March of 17-year-old French girl Gaelle Caroff, who jumped from a building after eating psychedelic mushrooms while on a school visit, has ignited a campaign to ban the fungi - sold legally at so-called 'smartshop' as long as they're fresh.

Regulation of mushrooms is even less stringent than Holland's famously loose laws on marijuana, which is illegal but tolerated in "coffee shops" that are a major tourist attraction.

Caroff's parents blamed their daughter's death on hallucinations brought on by the mushrooms, though the teenager had suffered from psychiatric problems in the past. Photographs of her beautiful, youthful face were splashed across newspapers around the country.

In May, Health Minister Ab Klink ordered the national health institute to perform a new study on the risks of mushrooms. A few weeks later he said he would either recommend an age limit of 18, or a total ban, depending on the study's conclusions, due next month.

A majority of parties in parliament has demanded the hallucinogenic mushrooms be outlawed.

Business as usual in smartshops

For now, it's business as usual at Amsterdam's smartshops.

"We have seven kinds on the menu, most of them are the softer kind," Chloe Collette, owner of the Full Moon shop, told a group of British tourists.

She said she doesn't sell to people under 18 and tries to screen out customers who appear unstable, but she acknowledged there is no way to be sure.

"We usually have kind of a conversation with (customers), to ask them what they are used to and ask what they expect," she said.

Peter Van Dijk, a researcher at the Netherlands' independent Trimbos Institute, said the mushrooms in themselves are not a health threat, because they are neither addictive nor toxic.

Brits figure most in

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