Mushrooms: only for 18 years and older
Source: NRC Handelsblad, 2007.07.17
Harm van den Berg and Vincent Bongers
Minister Klink of Public Health considers measures to limit the sale of magic mushrooms. “Prohibition would be a disaster”
Rotterdam 17 July
Since mid June, minister Ab Klink (Public Health, CDA) is studying on a report on the risks of magic mushrooms. The meaning is, according to his spokesperson, to decide even this week if the sale should be limited, or entirely banned. Sources close to the Minister consider the possibilty of a total ban as “very unlikely”. The establishment of an age limit seems to be more obvious.
The report is produced by the Coordination Unit Assessment and Monitoring (CAM), that resides under the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM), including among others the Municipal Health Service (GGD) of Amsterdam. In the past years, this service reported a increase in bad trips after consuming hallucnogenic mushrooms. And almost every time the cases involve foreign tourists, in more than 90 % of the 120 cases. The GGD rsearcher concluded that especially the information given to tourists, many of them first time users, should be improved.
If minister Klink wants to limit the sale of mushrooms, the measure should be the increase of the age limit to 18 years. According to figures of the Trimbos-institute that deals with addiction care, the number of regular mushroom users between 12 and 19 can be estimated at 15.000 boys and 3.000 girls. The question if they had ever used mushrooms was answered affirmatively by 45.000 boys.
The minister can also limit the number of smartshops. He made this suggestion himself last month when responding to questions of the VVD MP Fred Teeven, who is in favour of a complete ban on magic mushrooms.
The death of a 17 year old French girl who jumped from a bridge in Amsterdam in March of this year after consuming mushrooms, brought the drug to the attention of the the parliament. The incident led to a motion approved by a parliament majority to prohibit fresh mushrooms. The fractions of CDA, VVD, CU and PVV repeatede that point of view yesterday after it was made public that a French tourist in Amsterdam had killed his dog “under the influence of mushrooms”. Later an investigation by a GGD psychiatrist revealed that his act had probably nothing to to do with the use of mushrooms.
The dried variety of the mushrooms falls under the opium law and is prohibited too. Also the m,anufacturing of mushrooms in products is not allowed. The city government of Amsterdam closed twosmartshops one week ago as the opium law was violated there. In the shops, there were bags with dried mushrooms which contained the prohibited substance psilocine. In March, two other Amsterdam smartshops were closed by authorities.
The GGD advises to limit the sale of mushrooms as much as possible to the 8 existing smartshops in town and ban dried or manufactured mushrooms. In the shops, more information in various languages should be given about dosage and risks. Besides, the GGD appeals to the commercial sector to limit the sale to tourists to one box (ca. 35 grammes so-called Mexican mushrooms or their equivalent) per two people.
Paul G. van Oyen of the National Coalition of Smartshops (VLOS) supports the recommendations of the GGD. “We do not want to have anything to do with dried mushrooms or products that have mushrooms included. We believe the sael of fresh mushrooms should become more professional but should not be banned. That would be a disaster. The whole commercial circuit would become illegal. As a consequence, the number of incidents would surely increase.”
Roel Kersemakers of Jellinek, the agency for addiction care in Amsterdam, concludes that there are seldom any problems with consuming mushrooms. „Mushrooms are not addictive. The people who feel bad are often those who come to Amsterdam with the purpose of having a trip. Many complaints are the consequence of mixing mushrooms with other substances. Especially the combination with alcohol can cause problems.”