After months of debate, the Netherlands announced on October 12 that they will ban all sales of hallucinogenic mushrooms, also known as “magic mushrooms,” which are currently sold at about 180 “smart shops” throughout the country, with the highest concentration in the Amsterdam city center. This has been a particularly hot topic this year as a few recent incidents associated with tourists who had taken mushrooms have prompted members of the Dutch Parliament to call for this ban.
In March of this year, Gaelle Caroff, a 17-year-old French girl died after she threw herself off a bridge during a school visit in Amsterdam. She had eaten hallucinogenic mushrooms, but no formal link between those facts has been established. She had a history of previous psychological problems, but her parents blame the mushrooms. Her photo and story was plastered all over the Dutch media after the incident, so calls for a stop to mushroom sales increased.
Currently psilocybin, which are the hallucinogenic mushrooms, are sold in smart shops throughout the country, with sales estimated at around €10 million annually. Dried or cured psilocybin has been illegal for some time, but the shops have been allowed to sell the fresh version of the special mushrooms, which is used in the same way.
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The experience is similar to taking acid or ecstasy, in that the affects don’t hit the user for an hour or so after ingestion, and then the feeling can intensify after that, lasting for up to 8 hours in total. Most users laugh and/or get introspective, but some people are prone to panic attacks, or worse. Medical authorities say there have been over 100 mushroom-related emergencies so far this year.
It appears that the ban will take affect in the next few months, so the smart shops throughout the country – including 39 in Amsterdam itself – will be able to carry on for now, but assuming this new ban does take affect the future of the smart shop industry may be in danger. The shops also sell “herbal ecstasy” and similar pills and dubious concoctions, but the mushrooms have been the shops’ raison d’être from the beginning.
Earlier in the week the Amsterdam city counsel had agreed to a 3-day waiting period to cut back on compulsive use by tourists who may not know enough about psilocybin, but in the end that proposal didn’t go far enough so an outright ban is now in the works.