Magic mushroom sellers escape court

By Alfa · Sep 29, 2004 · ·
  1. Alfa
    The scotsman, 29 september 2004

    <img border="0" src= "">

    Paul Stewart with some magic mushrooms.

    Magic mushroom sellers escape court


    <DIV align=justify>THE first attempt in Scotland to prosecute high-street shops for selling magic mushrooms has failed, The Scotsman can reveal.

    The Crown Office has decided not to proceed with cases against a tobacconist and a café owner, leading to claims that it gives a green light to sell the hallucinogenic plant, which contains a class-A drug.

    Paul Stewart, who was fined £500 after attempting to turn his premises in Leith into a Dutch-style cannabis café, said he now planned to open a shop selling magic mushrooms and other mind-altering, but legal, substances.

    Anti-drugs campaigners expressed dismay at the decision and said a court should have been allowed to hear the case.

    Magic mushrooms, which contain the class-A substance psilocybin, grow naturally in Britain and are legal only if they are not prepared in any way. The definition of "preparation" was crucial to the case - the campaign group Scotland Against Drugs had argued it could mean cutting them from the ground, putting them in a bag or keeping them in a fridge.

    Mr Stewart, of the Purple Haze café in Leith, and Alan Myerthall, of the Pipe Shop in Leith Walk, were both charged by police after selling magic mushrooms to undercover officers.

    However, a spokesman for the Crown Office said both cases had been marked "no proceedings" by procurators-fiscal.

    Mr Stewart said he started selling magic mushrooms to highlight drug laws that banned him from selling cannabis but allowed the sale of the class-A fungi to children.

    "I’d never do that, but that’s the hypocrisy of the drug laws in this country," he said.

    "This [the decision to drop the case] has given me the green light and I’m definitely going to open a shop in the town, selling everything legal - magic mushrooms, hallucinogenic cactus and liquid ecstasy, which is some kind of herbal concoction. It will be a smart drug shop.

    "We have got to accept in this day and age people are going to take recreational drugs," he went on. "I’m not interested in hard drugs, but if people are going to take recreational drugs, why not try legal alternatives first?"

    Mr Myerthall said he had known the prosecution would not go ahead from the start. "The police are not interested because we’re not breaking the law. You cannot charge people with selling something that’s legal," he said.

    Scotland Against Drugs insisted the decision to drop the case did not give a green light to others, because a legal precedent could be set only by a court ruling. Its director, Alistair Ramsay, said: "It’s disappointing the legal definition of preparation of magic mushrooms as a class-A substance will not be determined by a court.

    "It’s likely that the confusion will continue, and this is to be regretted."

    He said the police should still take action against anyone trying to open magic-mushroom shops and added: "Psilocybin is covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act in the same way as heroin and cocaine are class-A drugs.

    "The law can still be executed with its full force at any time in the future. Somebody, somewhere, is going to bring down the full force of the law."

    Lothian and Borders Police confirmed that both men had been charged but declined to comment on the decision to drop the case.</DIV>

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  1. Alfa
    Mushies a drug, not a food.

    Customs to rake in £1m from VAT on magic mushrooms
    By Robert Verkaik, Legal Affairs Correspondent

    10 August 2004

    Magic mushroom traders are facing a £1m tax bill after a Customs and Excise ruling that the hallucinogenic fungus is to be treated as a drug and not a food.

    The move comes just weeks after ministers ordered a clamp-down on the increasing number of shops and market stalls that sell the mushrooms.
    Guidance issued by Customs makes it clear that the magic mushroom must be subject to a 17.5 per cent VAT charge because it is eaten for its "stimulant" rather than "nutritional" effect.

    In a letter written in response to an inquiry from a north London shop owner, the Customs' National Advice Service said: "Unfortunately the said mushroom does not qualify for zero-rating under ... the VAT Act 1994 and is therefore standard rated for VAT purposes at 17.5 per cent."

    Customs argued: "It is evident from various magic mushrooms websites that you do not use it based on the amount required in a recipe, you use amounts based on what sort of 'trip' you want."

    The letter, based on guidance from the Customs and Excise unit of
    expertise, added: "In these recipes, the foodstuffs are used as a
    vehicle for consuming the drug as opposed to ... an essential
    ingredient. Accordingly the amount recommended to be used in recipes dictates how much you 'trip' as opposed to any ordinary reason."

    There are estimated to be between 200 and 300 shops selling magic mushrooms and many other businesses trading online. The bulk of the produce is imported from the Netherlands. It has been suggested that the Treasury could be in line for a £1m mushroom tax windfall.

    Mushroom traders argue that the Government is guilty of hypocrisy by making it a criminal offence to sell prepared mushrooms while at the same time making money from taxing the sale of fresh mushrooms after shops were raided.

    Chris Territt, from the Psyche Deli in north London, said: "Customs and Excise have reviewed the situation for us and, in their opinion, the mushrooms, which are mostly imported under their supervision, are not only legal but VAT-able. Consequently the Government is taking 17.5 per cent of every mushroom transaction. If the Government thinks we're breaking the law, how can it be taking our money?"

    Another mushroom trader said she was having to pay backdated VAT. Sylvia Chandler, of the Federation of Shamanic Entheogens Retailers and Wholesalers, said: "It's ridiculous that the Government thinks the mushroom is a drug and not a food. The chemical in the mushroom belongs to the same series of serotonin chemicals that naturally occur in the human body."

    Customs argues that the average person would "consider" the magic mushroom to be a drug. A spokeswoman said the VAT advice applied only to "fresh" mushrooms and that once they were "prepared" for sale, by freezing, drying or making tea, the mushrooms were classified as a class A drug.


    * Gingerbread men dipped in chocolate are subject to VAT at 17.5 per cent, but those covered with caramel are not. The chocolate makes it a sweet rather than a tax-free biscuit.
    * The great debate over whether Jaffa Cakes are a VAT-able
    chocolate-covered biscuit, or a tax-free cake caused such disagreement that it went to tribunal in 1991. McVitie's won its argument that its product was a cake by baking a foot wide Jaffa Cake and passing it around in the hearing.
    * Women used to pay £45m a year in VAT on tampons until Gordon Brown decided to treat them as a non-luxury item and lifted the tax four years ago.
    * Women who buy size five or larger shoes have to pay VAT whereas those with smaller feet qualify for children's tax exemptions.
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