Hallucinogenic mushrooms? Yes they are on sale, in a relatively permissive Netherlands. The fung can give some hallucinations. But the trip is coming to an end.
Rattled by an incident in which a teenager jumped to her death after consuming such mushrooms, the government of Netherlands announced Friday they will be banned in the coming months.
"The problem with mushrooms is that their effect is unpredictable," a Justice Ministry spokesman said. Shops caught selling them will be closed.
Possession of "hard" drugs like cocaine, LSD and Ecstasy is illegal. Mushrooms will fall somewhere in the middle.
Psilocybin, the main active chemical in the mushrooms, has been illegal under international law since 1971. However, fresh, unprocessed mushrooms continued to be sold legally in the Netherlands along with herbal medicines in so-called "smart-shops," on the theory that it was impossible to determine how much of the naturally occurring substance any given mushroom contains.
Calls for a re-evaluation arose after Gaelle Caroff, a 17-year-old visiting from France, from a building in Amsterdam in March after eating psychedelic mushrooms.
Caroff's parents blamed their daughter's death on hallucinations brought on by the mushrooms, though the teenager had suffered from psychiatric problems in the past. Photographs of her youthful face were splashed across newspapers around the country.
Since Caroff's death other dramatic stories involving mushrooms have been reported in the Dutch press:
• A British tourist, 22, ran amok in a hotel, breaking his window and slicing his hand badly.
• An Icelandic tourist, 19, thought he was being chased and jumped from a balcony, breaking both his legs.
• A Danish tourist, 29, drove his car wildly through a campground, narrowly missing people sleeping in their tents.
"It's a shame, the media really blew this up into a big issue," said Chloe Collette, owner of the FullMoon smart-shop in Amsterdam.
She said all the incidents had involved the use of multiple drugs — against the advice of sellers — but it was the mushrooms that were blamed.
"Used in the right way, there's no problem with mushrooms: The biggest problem is with alcohol, in my opinion."
Most mushrooms sold in Amsterdam are sold to tourists, and the city's liberal drug policies and legalized prostitution are major tourist attractions.
In May, the country's health minister, Ab Klink, undertook a study of the problems and called for suggestions from the industry and Amsterdam's city government.
Murat Kucuksen, whose farm Procare supplies about half the psychedelic mushrooms on the Dutch market, said he stood to lose several million euros invested in setting up his legal growing facilities.
He predicted the trade will move underground, prices will rise, and dealers will sell dried mushrooms or LSD as a substitute, with no guidance for tourists.
"So you'll have a rise in incidents but they won't be recorded as mushroom-related, and the politicians can declare victory," he said.