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A MAGIC mushroom seller from Sheffield fears changes to the law could destroy his business and lead to a rise in the number of people facing time in prison.
Jason Debenham, who runs The Stash Box on Glossop Road, Broomhill, said the Home Office should compensate businesses like his, which used to sell fresh magic mushrooms without falling foul of the law.
It has always been an offence to sell the mushrooms - which contain the hallucinogenic substance psilocybin - once they have been cooked, frozen, dried or processed in any other way, but selling them fresh was always allowed.
But now that the Drugs Act 2005 has been brought in, magic mushrooms have been re-classified as Class A drugs - the same as heroin and cocaine.
It means that from a date yet to be set, but expected to be at some point over the next few months, selling them in any form will be illegal. Anyone found guilty of possessing them could receive a maximum jail term of seven years behind bars, but to be found guilty of supplying them could land people in jail for life.
Mr Debenham, whose shop also sells smoking materials such as bongs and pipes and hydroponics equipment, is urging his loyal customers to buy their mushrooms while they can.
He gets a fresh weekly supply from Holland and said he will continue to order them until the change in the law is enforced. "I have a thriving business selling mushrooms to people from 18 to those in their sixties and seventies, who are going to be left disappointed when this new law comes into force," he said. "Obviously I will abide by the law even though I believe it is morally wrong to deprive people of things that are not causing them any harm. "They have been picked and eaten for hundreds of years without any problems and I am sure that will continue."
Mr Debenham, aged 31, from Ringinglow, added: "What I can see happening is a black market operating where people will get hold of them who have no qualms about selling to people of all ages, whereas at the moment businesses like mine have a responsible attitude. "We have paid taxes and VAT over the years, which the Government has happily accepted, but there has been no offer of compensation to any of us even though nationally 400 businesses could go under as a result of this."
What the changes mean
A spokesman for South Yorkshire Police said: "At the moment, until a date is set, it is within the law to pick and sell what are commonly known as magic mushrooms only if they are in their natural state. "If they are cooked, frozen, dried or processed in any way, however, charges can be brought for supply of a class A drug. "Similarly, people planning to buy these mushrooms should be warned that the only legal way to eat them is in a raw state. "Any processing after purchase can lead to charges of possessing, or even supplying a class A drug, depending on the circumstances."