Mushroom laws a magical mystery
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Sep 28 2004
By Guy Newey, Evening Mail</TD></TR></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>
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Three city shops selling "magic" mushrooms have been charged with supplying class A drugs in a ground-breaking test case.
The owners of the three shops - all in Selly Oak - have been hauled before Birmingham magistrates following raids in July.
Their cases could decide once and for all whether selling magic mushrooms is illegal in the UK.
The law is muddled at the moment. Government guidelines suggest that selling freshly-picked mushrooms is acceptable and that only mushrooms that have been dried break the law.
Today, campaigners for the shops slammed the prosecution as "hypocrisy" and insisted magic mushrooms were not dangerous. One mushroom trader said: "The whole thing is a mess. So much so, that the Inland Revenue has just forced me to pay a £7,500 backdated VAT bill on the mushrooms I have imported. How can the Government tax us for something that at the same time they deem illegal?"
Technically, the three traders face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for selling class A drugs.
They are: l David Harrison, aged 33, who ran Tassili Shaman, in Raddlebarn Road, before being forced to close his shop following the raid.
l Mohammed Ibrar, aged 32, who runs Amsterdam of London, in Bristol Road.
l Melissa Page, aged 31, manager of Old Skool Daze, also in Bristol Road.
Both Page and Ibrar have since stopped selling magic mushrooms.
All three were charged with possession with intent to supply Class A drugs and offering to sell Class A drugs at a court hearing.
The case was adjourned until November. Sylvia Chandler, who has run The Zen Shop in Moseley for ten years, has set up the Federation of Shamanic Entheogens Retailers and Wholesalers to help fight the court case.
"Mushrooms have great healing properties and have been used for thousands of years to enrich people's lives," said the 54-year-old.
"We are anti-drug, we teach people how to take them safely and give them the support they need. They are no worse than coffee or sugar and it is ridiculous that they are trying to take them away." She claims hundreds of
Birmingham residents including doctors, pharmacists, barristers and even policemen, have signed a petition in support of mushrooms.
But claims that magic mushrooms are harmless were dismissed by Birmingham's Drugs Action Team.
It warned that taking the hallucinogen could lead to "bad trips", stomach pains, nausea and vomiting. The fungi have also been linked with psychosis.
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* Magic Mushrooms contain the hallucinogens psilocin and psilocybin, which are both class A drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. * The Home Office has previously ruled that it is not illegal to sell freshly-picked mushrooms but the courts have decided that mushrooms that have been dried or "altered by the hand of man" are a Class A drug.
* Celia Strange, the solicitor representing the people in Kent who are also facing trials for supplying mushrooms, said the prosecutions show a hardening of government policy.
* There are around 400 retailers of magic mushrooms across the UK.</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>