DutchAmsterdam.nl — The cultivation and sale of fresh hallucinogenic mushrooms in the Netherlands will remain illegal, the High Court in the Hague has decided.
In upholding the ban the court rejected a request for interim relief filed by industry organization VLOS (Association of National Smart Shops). Smart shops are stores that specialize in the sale of legal psychoactive substances, as well as related literature and paraphernalia.
The ban went into effect on December 1, 2008, after a series of deaths, injuries and other incidents linked — sometimes incorrectly — to the use of the ‘magic’ mushrooms.
Incidents involved mostly tourists visiting Amsterdam
Most of these incidents took place in Amsterdam, and in 92 percent of the cases involved tourists — with Britons forming the largest group — who ignored extensive warnings and instructions provided by the smart shops.
Among other things, sellers emphasized that the consumption of hallucinogenic mushrooms should not take place in combination with the use of alcohol or Marijuana. They also warned against using more than just a small amount, and strongly suggested consuming the ‘paddos’ only when a sober friend is around to keep an eye on the situation.
Nevertheless, medical intervention was needed for 149 incidents involving mushrooms in 2007, an increase of 19 percent over the previous year. In 2005 there were 70 incidents. Among the high-profile cases was an incident in which a Danish tourist raced his car across a crowded camping. Several tourists jumped or fell from hotel windows.
In the case that led Ab Klink to propose the ban in October 2007, a 17-year-old French girl committed suicide by jumping from a bridge into busy traffic. It was later revealed that the girl, not old enough to legally enter a smart shop herself, had asked a friend to buy her some mushrooms.
Another case cited by Klink turned out to be unrelated to the use of ‘shrooms.’ A Frenchman who skinned his dog alive was diagnosed as psychotic instead of under the influence of magic mushrooms.
Checks and Balances
Last November a District Court rejected a previous injunction request filed by the VLOS. The organization argued that health minister Ab Klink had not sufficiently demonstrated that consumption of hallucinogenic mushrooms is a health danger. The VLOS also claimed that yearly sales of about one and a half million portions of mushrooms had led to only a very limited number of incidents — especially when compared with the use and effects of alcohol.
Smart shop owners have long called for a better system of checks and balances that would help prevent misuse of the mushrooms. When the ban was first proposed Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen suggested a three day waiting period in which customers would order and pay for their mushrooms in advance, at which time they would receive information outlining the proper use and effects of the plant before being able to pick up their purchase later.
Health minister Klink rejected these proposals, claiming that the effect of consumption of hallucinogenic mushrooms is unpredictable.
Operators of many smartshops have indicated that they are looking for alternatives to the mushrooms. They say that nature has produced many hallucinogenic plants.
Meanwhile veteran drugs consultant August de Loor, of the Amsterdam Drugs Advisory Bureau, is among those who fear that the ban will force the sale in paddos underground. De Loor says he does not yet have many indicators that this is indeed happening. According to him many regular users bought an dried a significant supply before the ban went into effect.
He does believe that as supplies dwindle, consumers will either switch to illegal alternatives such as LSD or 2-CB, while others may take to the forest where most people can not distinguish poisonous mushrooms from those that produce hallucinogenic effects.
De Loor says he does not see a good alternative to the sale of fresh mushrooms along with good advice regarding their proper use.
The VLOS has announced that it will not appeal the High Court’s decision.
VLOS manager Paul van Oyen says that one or two smart shops have gone into bankruptcy as a direct result of the ban on mushrooms.
Larger shops have thus far managed to stay in business in part by switching to mind-expanding truffels, the cultivation and sale of which remain legal.
However, smart shops are also suffering from a decline in the number of tourists visiting Amsterdam, as an effect of the economic crisis.
Nationwide some ten small smart shops, of which four in Amsterdam, have closed their doors in recent months.
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