Page last updated at 09:28 GMT, Monday, 1 December 2008

Dutch magic mushroom ban in force

By Geraldine Coughlan
BBC News, The Hague

A woman harvests magic mushrooms in the Netherlands. File photo
Magic mushrooms are big business in the Netherlands

A ban on the sale of hallucinogenic or so-called "magic mushrooms" is coming into force in the Netherlands.

The Dutch government says the fungi, which contains the hallucinogenic ingredient psilocybin, can cause life-threatening behaviour.

Last year, a French girl jumped to her death from a bridge in Amsterdam after allegedly eating such mushrooms.

Owners of the shops that sell the fungi argue that their trade should be regulated, not banned.

The Dutch Association of Smart Shops fears the ban will put its members out of business.

It says there is not enough evidence to prove that the fungi are a danger to public health.

Mushroom-related incidents, requiring the emergency services, have doubled in the past few years, with most cases involving foreign tourists, mainly from Britain.

Many mix magic mushrooms with alcohol and cannabis.

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