Dutch look to ban magic mushrooms

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch cabinet has proposed a ban on the sale of all hallucinogenic “magic” mushrooms because they could induce life-threatening behavior.

People protest against a planned ban on all hallucinogenic "magic" mushrooms by the government on Dam square in Amsterdam October 27, 2007. The sign reads "save the mushroom". REUTERS/Koen van Weel

A bill will now pass to the Dutch parliament, where a majority of lawmakers are expected to back a ban after a teenage French girl who had eaten mushrooms died jumping from a bridge in 2007.

While dried magic mushrooms are illegal in the Netherlands, fresh mushrooms can still be bought openly in so-called “Smart Shops”.

Posters in Smart Shops outline the effects the mushrooms have and whether users are more likely to feel chatty or exhilarated, for example.

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

In February the Dutch association of Smart Shops (VLOS) promised tighter self-regulation and noted the majority of mushroom-related incidents involved young tourists to Amsterdam mixing mushrooms with alcohol and cannabis.

Figures from the Amsterdam emergency services show there were 55 call-outs for mushroom-related incidents in 2004, a figure which had more than doubled by 2006 to 128, with the majority of youngsters involved coming from Britain.

The VLOS said sales of mushrooms rose by 20 percent last year, while the number of accidents experienced by users rose by a smaller percentage.

In recent years the Netherlands has looked to shed its “anything goes” image and has tightened laws on drug use and prostitution.

“If they succeed with this mushroom ban then I am sure they will try to ban things like cannabis as well. This is part of a wider trend,” said Freddy Schaap of the VLOS.

Reporting by Alexandra Hudson; editing by Philippa Fletcher