2 ARRESTS MUSHROOM INTO DRUG PROBE
A Combination Of Cow Dung And Rain Might Translate Into Jail Time For Two Mushroom-Poaching Teens
FORT PIERCE - The season's heavy rains recede slowly, leaving small, muddy puddles in a cow pasture along Jenkins Road in suburban Fort Pierce.
Here, spoon-sized caps of maturing beige mushrooms peek through tufts of vibrant green grass.
The moist field is fertile ground for an abundance of these mushrooms -- the psychedelic and potentially poisonous kind.
"Magic mushroom" pickers often flock to rural pockets of the Treasure Coast during the wet season in search of the mushrooms that sprout from small piles of dung and contain a hallucinogen similar to LSD, called psilocybin.
Two St. Lucie teens were arrested on trespassing charges last week after deputies found them at the Jenkins Road pasture with a bag stuffed with mushrooms.
St. Lucie sheriff's deputies seized the mushrooms, and the regional crime lab in Fort Pierce is testing them for psilocybin. If the mushrooms contain the hallucinogen, the teens could also be charged with a felony.
"There are two things we respond to: the trespassing and then the mushrooms," said Ken Mascara of the St. Lucie Sheriff's Office. .
The sheriff's offices in Martin and St. Lucie counties regularly patrol rural areas and sometimes use helicopters or block off areas to catch suspected pickers.
They also hope the aggressive tactics will deter others, many of whom apparently learn about the mushroom patches on the Treasure Coast from the Internet, authorities say.
DEA officials estimate that about a dozen suspected mushroom pickers are caught each year in St. Lucie County, and at least twice as many in Martin County.
People who live near the pastures say the mushroom pickers are a nuisance.
"It's just not a very respectful thing to do to march on someone else's property without asking," said Mary Smith, who lives near a pasture along Edwards Road in St. Lucie.
Others worry the problem could be more serious, saying that people are being hired to pick the psychedelic mushrooms that will later be dried and sold illegally.
The mother of one of the teens arrested last week for trespassing said her 16-year-old son was one of those hired by a local man.
"I'm extremely concerned, and as a parent, I'm drug-free and don't condone or accept that," said the mother, who asked not to be identified.
She said it was the first time her son had picked mushrooms.