Saturday November 22, 2003

Joe Barnes

Nottingham Evening Post

 

Follow up article from Nottingham Evening Post On-Line (since removed) www.nottinghameveningpost.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=66030&command=displayContent&sourceNode=65582&contentPK=7919852

'SUMMIT ON DRUGS' PLEA

12:00 - 26 November 2003
The owner of a city-centre shop which sells 'magic mushrooms' has revealed he may stop selling them.

But Barry McCormack warned that other less responsible traders could quickly fill any gap in the market.

He now wants to meet representatives from the Home Office, Notts police, city councillors and local drug-support agencies to discuss the implications of selling the mushrooms and the wider issue of drug crime in Nottingham.

Mushrooms on sale at Mr McCormack's Ice Nine shop in Hockley can be turned into a powerful hallucinogenic drug.

A loophole in the law means the shops can sell the mushrooms - which have a similar effect to LSD - as long as they are in their natural state.

Mr McCormack, a father-of-three, said he had legally sold thousands of 30g packets of the mushrooms since he began stocking them five months ago.

The 52-year-old, from West Bridgford, said: "I may stop selling the mushrooms because I'm concerned about how all this publicity could be affecting the image of my business.

"But other, perhaps less responsible, traders would take over in no time at all.

"These items are being sold in at least 50 shops around the UK, if not many more.

"Just about all of them, including us, have been open for many years and only deal with reputable suppliers.

"A lot of our customers are students and older business people, and they had been asking us for these items for more than a year before we started selling them. They had been able to purchase them in other UK cities.

"I do not advocate the taking of any drugs, but any adult has the right to do what they want with their bodies as long as they behave responsibly and do not hurt anyone else.

"I want an informed debate with the Home Office, police and other agencies, not just about the sale of magic mushrooms but also drug crime in Nottingham.

"Before I give up selling them, I want the police to tell me what will happen if I stop and another shop starts selling them. It does not stop the problem."

Mr McCormack, who moved his business from Leicester to Nottingham in the early 1980s, only sells the mushrooms to over-18s in 30g packets for 12.99 - with no more than four packets sold to each customer.

A label on the packets says they are only to be used for education and research.

Mr McCormack added: "Mushroom sales are just one part of my business. It would not force me to close down if I stopped selling them.

"However, if sales were driven underground. it would add to drug-related crime in Nottingham."

The Evening Post told on Saturday how, once dried, the mushrooms can be turned into Class A drugs.

Anyone caught with them faces up to seven years in prison.

Under the law, possession of magic mushrooms is only criminal if they have ceased to be in their natural state.

If eaten, the mushrooms can cause intense feelings of euphoria, but also paranoia and fear.

Chief Inspector Ian Bates, of Notts Police Drugs (Partnerships) team, has warned the public of the criminal consequences of taking the drug.

He said today: "I would welcome a meeting with Mr McCormack as I think it would take this matter forward.

"Our main focus is on dealing with crack and heroin markets.

"Magic mushrooms can still be made into Class A drugs and we treat their sale very seriously, but they are so cheap that I can't see street dealers cashing in and creating a bigger market for them if shops did not sell them."

Nottingham trading standards department is investigating the sale of the mushrooms to see if it contravenes any laws.