Pubdate: Fri, 08 Oct 1999
Source: Reuters
Copyright: 1999 Reuters Limited.


AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Netherlands' liberal drug policy suffered a minor
knock on Thursday when a regional court ruled that drying hallucinogenic
magic mushrooms was illegal.

But in the first case to target magic mushrooms, judges did not challenge
the sale or cultivation of fresh mushrooms by more than 200 so-called
``smart shops'' across the country.

The court in the southern Dutch city of Den Bosch sentenced four men and
one woman to community service for processing and trading dried magic
mushrooms -- less than the one-and-a-half to three-year sentences the
prosecutor had sought.

In handing out the lenient sentences, the court cited expert research that
showed the mushrooms posed no significant threat to public health. It also
said magic mushrooms were not addictive and cause only mild hallucinogenic

Under Dutch law, processing native plants into drugs is illegal, but
selling or possessing the plant is not.

Three men were found guilty of producing and trading dried mushrooms, while
another man and his daughter were convicted of growing the mushrooms with
intent to process.

The four men must each perform 240 hours of community service, and the
woman 120 hours.

The smart shop in Den Bosch which sold the dried mushrooms must pay a fine
of 10,000 guilders, the court ruled.

At least one of the defendants, Hans van den Hurk, owner of the smart shop
chain Conscious Dreams, said he planned to appeal the verdict.

Smart shops sell an assortment of vitamin or herbal products, from energy
drinks such as Red Bull and aphrodisiacs to herbal ``ecstasy,'' a legal
substitute designed to mimic the banned drug MDMA.

The Netherlands has long drawn criticism from other nations for its lenient
drug policy, which tolerates the sale of cannabis in hundreds of coffee
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