Page last updated at 21:56 GMT, Saturday, 26 April 2008 22:56 UK

Dutch bill to ban magic mushrooms

A woman harvests magic mushrooms in a grow room at the Procare farm in Hazerswoude, central Netherlands, Friday Aug. 3, 2007
Magic mushrooms are big business in the Netherlands

The Dutch cabinet has proposed a bill to ban the sale of hallucinogenic or so-called "magic mushrooms".

A majority of MPs is expected to back the proposal, which comes after a number of accidents, mostly involving tourists.

The health ministry said the number of incidents linked with the use of magic mushrooms had almost doubled in the last four years, mainly in Amsterdam.

But owners of the shops that sell them say the ban is unnecessary.

"The use of mushrooms can produce hallucinogenic effects which can lead to extreme or life-threatening behaviour," the health ministry said in a statement late on Friday after the cabinet decision.

But the association of owners of so-called "Smart Shops" where the hallucinogenic fungi are sold say that magic mushrooms, which contain the hallucinogenic ingredient psilocybin, are only dangerous when they are taken together with alcohol or other drugs.

Compromise proposal

The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan in The Hague says the government's decision was prompted by the death of a 17-year-old French girl last year, who jumped from a bridge in Amsterdam.

But no formal link was established between her death and the use of mushrooms.

Other incidents involving the drug have included an Icelandic tourist jumping from a balcony and breaking both legs and a Danish tourist driving his car wildly through a camping ground, narrowly missing sleeping campers.

The ban on the cultivation and use of the mushrooms means most of Smart Shops will have to close.

The shop owners argue that users will now buy dried mushrooms, which are already illegal.

The Mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, has proposed as a compromise, a three-day cooling-off period between getting the information on magic mushrooms in the Smart Shops and actually buying them.

Under the suggested scheme, if an informed tourist decides to go ahead with a mushroom trip, he can pick up his pack of paddos in the Smart Shop, three days later.

Users of fresh mushrooms experience effects ranging from giggling fits and intensification of colours, lights and sounds to, more rarely, hallucinations. Negative effects can include vomiting, and anxiety.



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