Newsbrief: Japan to Outlaw Magic Mushrooms, Loophole Slams Shut 5/3/02

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While Japan has some of the toughest drug laws in the industrialized world, a curious gap in the Japanese legal code has for years allowed aficionados of the magic mushroom and their suppliers to go about their business openly. Although Japanese law banned psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in such hallucinogenic fungi as amanita muscaria, the mushrooms themselves were never banned. But the Japanese Health Ministry announced April 26 that the loophole will slam shut as of June 6.

In a land where some over-the-counter cold medicines are routinely seized by customs officials, head shop chains with names such as Whoopee! and Herb On Air openly and legally sell psychedelic substances that would be Schedule I in the US. Vendors hawk the 'shrooms from sidewalk stands and magazines advertise for "Hawaiian toadstools," Reuters reported.

The US had taken note of the anomaly. In its 2001 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, released in March, the State Department noted that: "Neither the possession, distribution, nor the importation of certain hallucinogenic plants is illegal in Japan, but efforts are underway to close this loophole."

And now the Japanese have acted, claiming public health concerns. "There have been concerns of abuse," a Health Ministry spokesman told Reuters. "Cases of young people doing harm to their health have been on the rise," he said.

A branch manager at the Psychedelic Gardens head shop in Tokyo's Nishi-Shinjuju district was mellow. "There's been talk of this for some time," he told Reuters. "We'll end sales on May 20. It's disappointing, but it can't be helped," he said.

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Issue #235, 5/3/02 Editorial: Return of the Drug Czars | Former British Drug Policy Head Says Legalize it All | Thai Police Death Squads Accused of Killing Drug Dealers | South Dakota Amendment Would Give Criminal Defendants Right to Argue Merits, Applicability and Validity of Laws | Summer Concert Bust Season Gets Early Start in Alabama -- Rockers Can Take Steps to Protect Themselves, Say Advocates | It's National Drug Court Month -- Do You Know What You're Getting for Your Money? The Government Doesn't, Says GAO | Newsbrief: Washington Says Colombian Military Meets Human Rights Conditions, Frees More Money | Newsbrief: Japan to Outlaw Magic Mushrooms, Loophole Slams Shut | Newsbrief: China Faces Plague of Yuppie Dopers as Disposable Income in Cities Rises | Newsbrief: Prospects Dimming For Vermont Medical Marijuana Bill | Newsbrief: Italian Legislative Body Asks for Medical Marijuana | Newsbrief: BC Marijuana Party Head to Run for Vancouver Mayor | Newsbrief: Eleven House Pages Fired for Marijuana Use -- NORML Offers Them Jobs | Newsbrief: Connecticut Carpenters Strike Over Wages, Drug Testing | Web Scan: De Greiff, Blumenson, Weitzel, GAO, Canada | Errata: Drug War Race | The Reformer's Calendar

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