The legal status of psychedelic mushrooms such as psilocybe cubensis in Great Britain is muddied after a recent wave of arrests of mushroom sellers, the Guardian reported this week. After direction from the Home Office two years ago that the sale of the trippy fungi was within the law if the mushrooms were not "prepared," more than 400 'shroom shops have sprung up like, well, mushrooms in a cow pasture, and, at least according to British popular culture accounts, they have become the drug of choice for young partiers. When the magazine NME described last summer as "the third summer of love," it ascribed the peaceful vibe to massive mushroom ingestion.
courtesy Erowid While two years ago, the Home Office said that mushrooms did not contravene the Misuse of Drugs Act, it has now changed its tune. Now it says: "The Home Office judges that a mushroom that has been cultivated, transported to the marketplace, packaged, weighed and labeled constitutes a product," and is thus subject to the anti-drug law.
The Home Office followed its new interpretation of the law with arrests of mushroom sellers in Birmingham, Canterbury, Folkestone, and Gloucester, among others, the Guardian reported.
That move has drawn the scorn of at least one Member of Parliament, Paul Flynn. (See our interview with Flynn in this issue). "The law on magic mushrooms is madness," Flynn told the Guardian. "It seems to have been written by somebody who was on a hallucinogenic drug. It's crazy: If you pick them, that's legal; if you keep them overnight, that's illegal because they dry out. The effect of magic mushrooms is minor compared with other drugs. There is a market for them and it would be better to allow it to operate. There are plenty of medicinal drugs that cause far more damage than magic mushrooms. But there are no signs of any intelligence in drug policy from the government. When they say the word 'drugs', you can be sure that the word 'tough' won't be far behind."
And the Home Office got another spanking on Tuesday, when a Gloucester court threw out mushroom sales charges against two local men. Arguing that Home Office directives were confusing and contradictory, crown court recorder Claire Miskin said the law was so ambiguous that to put the two men on trial amounted to an "abuse of process." Miskin suggested that parliament clarify the matter with new legislation.
In the meantime, the Guardian reported, mushrooms remain widely available in greater London, where they continue to be sold openly. Home cultivation kits rival I-Pods as the most popular Christmas gift for young adults this year, the newspaper reported.