Rare 'hippy' drug seized by police in raid on city shop
POLICE have seized tens of thousands of pounds' worth of a rare "hippy" drug following a raid on a city shop.
The powerful hallucinogenic mescaline – relatively unheard of in recent years – was allegedly discovered on sale at the Apothecary store on Clerk Street in Newington.
The class A drug, which is derived from cactus plants, was made famous by the "Gonzo" writer Hunter S Thompson and Aldous Huxley, who both wrote works while under its influence. But it has all about disappeared in the UK, with experts estimating only a few hundred users remain.
The confiscation this week followed a joint operation between police and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, with 3.5kg of mescaline, worth an estimated £35,000, taken away for analysis.
A 31-year-old man and 27-year-old woman appeared in court yesterday on drugs charges. They made no plea and were released on bail.
It is not known whether it was the first time that mescaline had been seized in the Capital.
A police spokeswoman said: "We are committed to removing drugs from our communities and we are continuing to target organised crime and bring those responsible to justice. We encourage any members of the public to tell us about suspicious activity in their neighbourhood immediately."
Mescaline produces vivid psychedelic hallucinations for up to 12 hours after ingestion, but can cause dizziness, vomiting and, in some cases, psychotic reactions.
Popular in California in the 1960s among the hippy community, mescaline is so rare that both the Home Office and Lothian and Borders Police have no separate category to record any seizures.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Drugs Forum said: "Mescaline is a hallucinogenic drug, similar to LSD and magic mushrooms. It is expensive to produce illegally and is not often available in the UK."
Steve Rolles, the head of research at drug policy foundation Transform, added: "It is possible to extract the drug from cactuses legally sold in garden centres in the UK, but it involves a lot of effort. They have to be boiled and then you are left with a very unpleasant green sludge to take.
"Because of this difficulty, and the fact that similar drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms are available, mescaline has never really had a place on the drugs scene. Its availability is almost non-existent, which is why I'm surprised a relatively large amount has shown up in Edinburgh.
"The plant itself is not illegal but the powder form is. The law is quite ambiguous so the legality can depend on how much it has been prepared for sale."
Mr Rolles said the number of mescaline users in the UK would "probably only run into the hundreds". He added: "The only demand for mescaline you might see is among 'psychonauts' – a group interested in exotic psychedelic drugs.
"Using mescaline is not addictive and the risk of overdose is marginal, but there can be the danger of psychotic episodes."
When the Evening News contacted Apothecary, a man describing himself as "a friend of the shop" said no-one involved with the business wished to comment.
FROM RELIGIOUS RITES TO ARTISTIC EXCESS
MESCALINE has been used for more than 3,000 years by Native Americans, who often ingest the drug as part of religious rites.
It occurs naturally in members of the cactus family in South America.
Author Aldous Huxley took mescaline in 1953 and wrote a book about his experiences, The Doors of Perception, which inspired the name of the 1960s band The Doors.
Many art experts believe mescaline may also have played a part in the development of the Cubist school of abstract art.
Journalist Hunter S Thompson, recounted his use of mescaline in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which details his hallucinogenic adventures. He was played by Johnny Depp, right, in a film of the book.
Published Date: 10 April 2010
By ALAN McEWEN
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