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Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 13,985
Is the (mushroom) trip over?
    #3495219 - 12/14/04 01:56 AM (13 years, 6 months ago)

Magic mushrooms have never been more popular. More than 400 apparently legal 'shroom' shops have sprung up in the past two years, and growing kits have become a must-have Christmas present. So why has the government suddenly turned tough on sellers? Stephen Moss investigates

Tuesday December 14, 2004
The Guardian

Six months ago, when the NME described 2004 as "the third summer of love", it put the benign mood down to one thing - the return of magic mushrooms. The drug idolised by cult author and psychologist Timothy Leary in the 1960s - he said that his first experience of mushrooms in Mexico in 1960 taught him more than all his years of study - was back. According to the NME, which produced a "top tips for top trips" guide, mushrooms were a safe alternative to ecstasy, and what's more - they were legal. It was time to "turn on, tune in, drop out" all over again.

Except that nobody told the Home Office and the police, which have now declared war on magic mushrooms. In Gloucester, two local men have been charged with supplying a class A drug by selling them. It promises to be the start of a long and complicated legal battle to determine the status of Britain's latest drug of choice. Other cases are pending in Birmingham and Canterbury - cases which the Home Office hopes will establish once and for all whether magic mushrooms are innocent, hippy-dippy playthings, or a menace to be stamped on.

The nation's mushroom sellers are confused. Two years ago, a more easy-going Home Office sent out a letter advising them that "the growing of psilocybe mushrooms" and their "gathering and possession" did not contravene the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. It was not illegal, the letter went on, to sell or give away a growing kit, or to sell or give away a freshly picked mushroom, "provided that it has not been prepared in any way". Recipients of the letter took it as a green light to sell fresh mushrooms, and there are now an estimated 400 "shroom" shops in the UK.
This distinction - between a fresh mushroom and one that has been "prepared" - is crucial. It is not an offence to possess or consume a mushroom, because it occurs naturally, but a psilocybe mushroom contains the hallucinogen psilocin and its byproduct psilocybin, both of which are deemed to be class A drugs under the 1971 Act. Any "preparation" or any attempt to turn the mushroom into a "product" (the Gloucester case and others like it may hinge on the definition of those words) could constitute the supply of a class A drug. Maximum sentence: life imprisonment.

The Home Office has now, in effect, disowned the original softly-softly guidance note. "The Home Office judges that a mushroom that has been cultivated, transported to the marketplace, packaged, weighed and labelled constitutes a product," reads the latest guidelines. Applied literally, this would appear to rule out all trade in magic mushrooms, which at present are being cultivated, transported, weighed and sold openly in shops and on market stalls all over the country. Even grow-kits, which allow you to grow your own mushrooms, appear to be ruled out under the Home Office advice - a grow-kit, by definition, means cultivation. The tougher guidelines have led to a rash of arrests across the country, and to cases that will determine whether the nascent industry has a future

One retailer caught in the police crackdown was Andy Burgess, who runs the Headz "alternative gift shop" in Folkestone. Burgess, a former builder, is 61 and admits to being "the oldest swinger in town". His shop, with its blue and purple frontage, is an exotic exception to the drabness of the rest of the town. It smells of incense, has a large reclining Buddha in the window and is plastered with leaflets for psychic fayres, spiritual healing and medieval fencing. Strangely, there is also an advertisement for a model railway exhibition.

In late September, Burgess had a visit from the local police - and they hadn't come for the Indian head massage. "When I arrived here in the morning, there were two police vans outside my door," he recalls. "I said to a policeman, 'Do you want to speak to me?' He said, 'I'm afraid so.' There were at least eight policemen - they were like a Swat team.

"I said, 'What do you want?' He said, 'I want your mushrooms. Where are they?' They ended up taking my fridge, all my invoices, all my paraphernalia regarding mushroom selling."

Burgess was arrested on suspicion of supplying a class A drug and spent the rest of the day in the cells. He was interviewed, then bailed, but a few days later he was told that the case had been dropped. No explanation or apology was offered. "I can't understand it," he says. "I can't understand why they're hassling people." He also sells a range of replica firearms in his shop, but these do not seem to have excited the interest of the police.

Burgess has been selling magic mushrooms for seven or eight months to a wide range of aficionados: "I get teachers, even policemen coming in to buy them," he says. "Most people don't buy them in large quantities; they buy a small amount and share them with their friends to have a giggle. I sell them in 30g bags, which is the maximum dose for any one person, but if you do half of it you just get a giggle. Things may look a bit surreal, but that's as far as it goes. It's quite harmless."

Not everyone agrees. "Magic mushrooms are potentially dangerous," insists Professor John Henry, an expert in toxicology at Imperial College and St Mary's Hospital, London. "They clearly cause hallucinations. The hallucinations are usually short term, but there is a danger of flashbacks." Professor Henry says mushrooms have contributed to several deaths, with people suffering hallucinations being killed in accidents. "I advise people never to take magic mushrooms as a form of escape. I tell them your hang-ups will always chase you. Experienced users might just feel a bit trippy, but naive users may feel sick, spacy, quite ill. It is also frightening if they are fed to you without you knowing. That can be very scary."

Mushroom sellers, unsurprisingly, refuse to accept that mushrooms can do long-term damage. Psyche Deli, one of the biggest companies in the industry, was started by three people who enjoyed taking mushrooms and decided to turn their hobby into a business. They quote a Dutch scientific report that claims mushrooms are safe. "We never set out to do anything illegal," says co-founder Paul Galbraith. "We asked all the requisite authorities what we were able to do, and it looks like many other traders did the same. Over the past two years, although nothing has actually changed in the law, the Home Office's interpretation appears to have changed." Chris Territt, also from Psyche Deli, argues that it may be the increased size and organisation of the business - the Home Office is especially exercised by the growing volume of imports, mainly from Holland - that has triggered the clampdown.

"The law on magic mushrooms is madness," says Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport West. "It seems to have been written by somebody who was on a hallucinogenic drug." In May, Flynn wrote to Home Office minister Caroline Flint asking for clarification. Her reply - that the very act of selling them constitutes "preparation" - showed how far the Home Office had moved away from its original view that "preparation" meant a change in the physical nature of the mushroom, turning it into a tea, a paste or a powder, for example, to make the effect of the psilocin more concentrated.

The change of heart does not, however, appear to have penetrated the Metropolitan police, which has so far taken no action in London, where magic mushrooms are sold openly in street markets. When I visited a stall in Portobello Road, business was fairly brisk, with family groups clustered round the stall choosing from among the mushroom varieties - Mexican, Colombian, Hawaiian, Thai. Christmas is a busy time, apparently, with grow-kits rivalling iPods as the must-have present last year.

Flynn is scathing about the government's handling of the issue. "It's crazy: if you pick them, that's legal; if you keep them overnight, that's illegal because they dry out. The effect of magic mushrooms is minor compared with other drugs. There is a market for them and it would be better to allow it to operate. There are plenty of medicinal drugs that cause far more damage than magic mushrooms. But there are no signs of any intelligence in drug policy from the government. When they say the word 'drugs', you can be sure that the word 'tough' won't be far behind."

Even Professor Henry, while backing a ban on their cultivation, believes the law has become hopelessly confused. "They're not a food - VAT has to be paid on them - so what are they? They're in some other category, but nobody seems to know what."

The VAT issue is vexing to mushroom retailers. In February, one wrote to Customs and Excise to ask whether he should be charging VAT. It replied that he should and was then embarrassed when the retailer made the letter public. It appeared that it was levying a tax on a "product" which the Home Office wanted to ban. Joined-up government it wasn't.

"We did state that fresh mushrooms were subject to VAT," says Customs and Excise spokesman Paul Matthews, "but we are also aware of the Home Office view that their packaging for sale is illegal. We are really waiting for case law on this." Mushroom retailers argue that if VAT is being levied, the product per se cannot be illegal; it seems this is not the case. "Just because something is illegal doesn't mean that it can't be taxed," says Matthews.

Proponents of magic mushrooms are frustrated at what they see as the Home Office's reluctance to consider changing the law, and are critical of a policy that appears to be based on nudging the police and the courts to establish precedent. "If someone was going to make policy on this, then there would at least be a debate," says Territt, "but currently there is no debate. The crown prosecution service is not a relevant authority to be making health and safety and drugs policy."

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Registered: 12/27/98
Posts: 301
Loc: UK
Re: Is the (mushroom) trip over? [Re: veggie]
    #3495729 - 12/14/04 04:42 AM (13 years, 6 months ago)

"Except that nobody told the Home Office and the police" ? If it wasn't for the infamous letter from the Home Office implying that fresh was legal there wouldn't be any sellers now, the same as there weren't any before their letter, so what weren't they told. True about the police though who still don't seem to know what the law is half the time.

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astral projectile

Registered: 07/23/04
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Re: Is the (mushroom) trip over? [Re: Sorted]
    #3496142 - 12/14/04 08:30 AM (13 years, 6 months ago)

If someone in the UK feels the need to pressure politicians on this subject, here is a translation into english of the often quoted dutch risk assesment report on psilocybin containing mushrooms.(here is the original in Dutch)

Edited by koppie (12/14/04 08:31 AM)

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Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 13,985
Re: Is the (mushroom) trip over? [Re: veggie]
    #3502984 - 12/15/04 12:06 PM (13 years, 6 months ago)

Magic mushroom directive 'fudged'

Wednesday, 15 December, 2004
BBC News

Two men accused of selling chilled magic mushrooms from their shop have been told the current law is too "fudged" to put them on trial.

Colin Evans, 57, of Kingston Road, Slimbridge, and Dennis Mardle, 52, of Southgate Street, Gloucester, were arrested in March.

Recorder Claire Miskin said: "I take the view that the Home Office circular is fudged."

She said to put them on trial amounted to a breach of their human rights.

The two men were arrested on suspicion of possessing Class A drugs with intent to supply from Collector's Choice record shop in Southgate Street in Gloucester.

Selling fresh hallucinogenic mushrooms is not illegal. They can be sold in an 'as-picked state'.

Chemical make-up

Prosecuting, Phillip Warren told Recorder Miskin that it was because the defendants were found with mushrooms chilling in a fridge that they were facing trial for selling 'prepared' - and therefore illegal - mushrooms.

Recorder Claire Miskin

The legality of cooling, or storing the fungi in a fridge has not been tested.

A Home Office circular tells potential vendors: "In the light of earlier cases it would be for the courts to determine whether chilling mushrooms in a fridge would constitute altering them in any way."

Susan Evans, defending, said the case turned on the ambiguity of the Home Office letter, adding that experts agree chilling the mushrooms "in no way altered the chemical make-up of the mushrooms".

Recorder Miskin said: "I decide that this is a case where Parliament has left a gap and it seems to me that that gap ought really to be filled by Parliament and not by the decision of the courts."

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Crackdown looms for magic mushrooms [Re: veggie]
    #3514883 - 12/17/04 08:54 PM (13 years, 6 months ago)

Crackdown looms for magic mushrooms
Friday, 17 December, 2004

In recent months there has been an explosion in the availability of magic mushrooms available for sale in Britain.
The hallucinogens have been appearing in ever greater numbers in High Streets and market stalls across the country, after it became known that their sale was legal if they were fresh.

Now the Home Office has moved to close what it sees as a loophole that has allowed huge quantities of a Class A drug to be openly sold on city streets.

Until now only the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, psilocin, had been banned.

"There's a huge market out there and this will just drive it underground"
Chris Territt

Director, The Psyche Deli

That had been interpreted to mean that "prepared" mushrooms, such as those that had been dried or put in products such as tea, were Class A drugs while fresh magic mushrooms were perfectly legal.

But the Home Office's new Drugs Bill, published on Friday, includes a provision for all magic mushrooms to be considered Class A controlled drugs.

The law would be amended to include "fungus (of any kind) which contains Psilocin or an Ester of Psilocin".

Prison threat

It would mean anyone selling fresh mushrooms could face a life prison sentence. And it would bring to a halt a booming industry.

The Home Office estimates that there are now more than 400 stores or stalls selling fresh magic mushrooms in Britain, up from less than 20 only 18 months ago.

Independent research group DrugScope said some are well-organised distributors, while others were just opportunists set up on a roadside.

Chris Territt, one of the directors of The Psyche Deli, a company which distributes fresh magic mushrooms, said customers could be put in danger if reputable wholesalers and retailers - the type who would actually adhere to a change in the law - were forced to stop selling the product.

"The people who are buying magic mushrooms these days are teachers, doctors, lawyers. There are 60-year-old customers who said they were scared to try it in the past because they thought it was illegal but now they know it's not.

"This is just yet another example of the government criminalising a section of the community who never considered themselves to be law-breakers.

"There's a huge market out there and this will just drive it underground and into the arms of shady operators," he said.


DrugScope said most retailers had been self-regulating by refusing to sell magic mushrooms to under-18s, advising customers on safe doses and warning against mixing them with other drugs such as alcohol.

Mr Territt said: "Everyone who is currently selling magic mushrooms [in places like market stalls] has a stamp of legitimacy because distributors won't sell to them otherwise."

He dismissed the Home Office's suggestion that the bill would give greater clarity on the legality of magic mushrooms.

"It's just one line. They haven't sought to bring about any debate on whether they think it should be illegal," he said, adding that he was pleased such a debate would be forced by the bill's passage through Parliament.

Such a debate, he said, should focus on whether magic mushrooms should be considered Class A drugs at all.

DrugScope's Petra Maxwell agreed. She said that while the hallucinogenic nature of the fungus posed a danger to people with pre-existing mental problems, they should not be treated the same as other Class A drugs such as heroin.

"You'd really have to weigh up whether it should be a priority for overstretched police forces."

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Registered: 07/26/04
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Magic mushrooms are forced underground [Re: veggie]
    #3515306 - 12/17/04 11:52 PM (13 years, 6 months ago)

Magic mushrooms are forced underground by tough new penalties
18 December 2004
The Independent

Magic mushrooms are to be outlawed, with tough penalties for supplying or possessing the hallucinogenic fungi, under laws proposed by the Home Office yesterday.

Drug dealers who swallow their supplies, such as cocaine and heroin, to conceal them from police could also undergo X-rays or ultrasound scans, under the planned measures.

The Home Office published the proposals in its new Drugs Bill, which will clarify the law so that freshly picked magic mushrooms are illegal.

All forms of magic mushrooms will be treated as a class A drug, similar to heroin and cocaine, with maximum jail terms of life imprisonment for supplying, importing and exporting. Possessing them would carry a maximum prison sentence of seven years.

The move comes after a judge refused to allow the prosecution of two men caught selling bags of magic mushrooms from their shop. Recorder Claire Miskin threw out a case against Dennis Mardle and Colin Evans, at Gloucester Crown Court earlier this month, saying that the law was too ambiguous and needed to change.

Confusion in the law surrounds whether magic mushrooms constitute an illegal substance. While a fresh magic mushroom is legal, the hallucinogenic chemicals psilocin and an ester of psilocin contained in the fungi are illegal and treated as a class A drug. However, there are differing interpretations of whether dried mushrooms are against the law.

The Bill proposes amending the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act to cover "fungus (of any kind) which contains psilocin or an ester of psilocin". A Home Office spokeswoman said: "There is a need to clarify the law so that it's completely clear that fresh magic mushrooms as well as dried are illegal, to clamp down on cases where magic mushrooms have been sold openly."

With magic mushrooms now being freely sold and advertised in markets stalls and speciality shops around the country, it is estimated a clampdown on the open sale of magic mushrooms would cause up to ?1m in lost trade.

The Bill will also set up a presumption that people caught with more drugs than reasonable for personal use are dealers and so will face tougher sentences. There were expectations that police might be given the power to force suspected drug dealers to undergo x-rays.

Ministers have previously hinted that they would like to see this power introduced. But the Bill stopped short of the proposal. Instead, for X-rays or ultrasounds to take place, a suspect must give consent in writing.

But if a suspect refuses to have a scan, it will count against them in court. Magistrates would be given powers already available to Customs officers to remand suspected swallowers of drug packages in police custody for up to 192 hours.

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I think i tooktoo much

Registered: 01/31/03
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Re: Is the (mushroom) trip over? [Re: veggie]
    #3522798 - 12/20/04 01:42 AM (13 years, 6 months ago)

So are fresh mushrooms ileagl now in the UK

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Re: Is the (mushroom) trip over? [Re: veggie]
    #3531643 - 12/22/04 02:15 PM (13 years, 6 months ago)

To those interested, the text of the Drugs Bill, as introduced in the House of Commons on 16th December 2004, can be obtained here:

PDF version of the Bill
HTML version of the Bill

The portion of the Bill pertaining to mushrooms is here:
mushroom section

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Re: Is the (mushroom) trip over? [Re: WONKA]
    #3532081 - 12/22/04 04:14 PM (13 years, 6 months ago)

no, the bill has not even been presented to parliament for debate and voting yet - it is quite likely that there won't be time for it before the general election in May.

:sleepingcow:  :penguinmonkey: :blah:


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Re: Is the (mushroom) trip over? [Re: veggie]
    #9035095 - 10/06/08 12:56 AM (9 years, 8 months ago)

"" Professor Henry says mushrooms have contributed to several deaths, with people suffering hallucinations being killed in accidents. ""

right-- and nobody drunk on ale has ever gone and hurt themselves or caused accidents?  The professor has his head so far up his ass he's seeing shit and calling it sunshine!!


"Whales have deep thoughts"

:sun:Dreams are the fuel of the soul:sun:


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