Salvia Divinorum Scotland ~ Media Stories
Saturday April 16, 2005
Peers and MPs join furore over 'rushed' ban on magic
Retailers to challenge class A classification amid claims that new law will
drive trade underground
Peers, MPs and drug advocacy groups have rounded on a new law reclassifying
magic mushrooms as a class A drug, saying the legislation was rushed through
parliament in last week's "wash-up" without adequate debate and will criminalise
a group of people who were doing no harm to themselves or others.
Home Office sources have indicated that clause 21 of the new drug bill could
come into effect in time for the Glastonbury festival in June. Magic mushroom
retailers have vowed to challenge the ban, saying the statute contravenes
European free trade regulations and is deeply flawed.
They also point out that the bill would create a grey area for other naturally
occurring hallucinogens, many of which are traded on the internet and just as
hallucinogenic as the banned cubensis mushrooms. Mescaline, for instance, like
psilocin and pscilocybin, the active constituents of cubensis mushrooms, is
identified as a class A drug under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. But the drug
bill says nothing about the peyote cactus from which it is derived.
The bill also makes no reference to the fly agaric toadstool, a highly poisonous
red and white spotted fungus which the Home Office warns about on its drug
education website, Talk to Frank, and which grows wild in British forests. It
also makes no mention of Salvia divinorum, a hallucinogenic plant from Mexico
which Potseeds, a Totnes-based internet retailer, advertises as "the legal high
our politicians forgot to ban."
But opponents of clause 21 say the main objection is that it would be
unenforceable and would drive the trade in cubensis mushrooms - which, because
of a loophole in the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act, are considered legal -
"By no stretch of the imagination can you equate magic mushrooms with heroin or
cocaine," said Lord Mancroft, a member of the all-party group on the misuse of
drugs and chairman of Mentor UK, which aims to prevent drug misuse by young
people. "There's no evidence magic mushrooms are addictive, cause harm to people
or are a public order problem. The bill is completely disproportionate.'
Lord Mancroft, one of three backbench peers who opposed the bill on its second
reading in the Lords last week, also condemned the way government whips had
rushed the the legislation back to the Commons before it could be properly
scrutinised, claiming the process smacked of an election deal between the three
His comments were echoed by Paul Flynn, the Labour MP for Newport West and an
advocate of the legalisation of magic mushrooms and cannabis, who on the bill's
return to the Commons on April 7 condemned the law as having been "conceived in
prejudice, written in ignorance and ... enacted with incompetence."
"We are banning psilocybin, a natural product that will disappear from the
market, possibly to be replaced by drugs such as fly agaric, a far more
dangerous drug," he said.
Mr Flynn contrasted the government's decision to ban magic mushrooms with its
decision to reclassify cannabis from class B to class C and then refer the
matter to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, because of concerns about
the dangers that powerful new strains of "skunk" posed to people with
schizophrenia and those with a history of mental health problems.
No such reference to the advisory council occurred in the case of cubensis
mushrooms. "It's election politics pure and simple," Mr Flynn said.
The ban, which makes the importation, possession or sale of magic mushrooms pun
ishable by a life sentence, comes as lawyers prepare to defend retailers in
Canterbury and Birmingham from prosecution under the 1971 law.
Barristers are seeking to have the prosecutions thrown out as an abuse of
process on the grounds that the retailers were advised by the Home Office that
the 1971 act only applied to the sale of dried mushrooms or their
"preparations", not fresh mushrooms.
Yesterday Celia Strange of MJ Reed solicitors, representing the Canterbury and
Birmingham retailers, urged the Crown Prosecution Service to drop the cases,
saying it was clear from the statute change that parliament considered the
previous law flawed. The firm also pointed out the new act had serious
implications for people who may be unaware they have a class A drug growing on
Yesterday a Home Office spokeswoman said people would not be considered to have
committed an offence merely for having magic mushrooms growing on their land.