Pubdate: Tue, 13 Jul 1999
Source: Associated Press
Copyright: 1999 Associated Press
Author: Anthony Deutsch


In Drug-Tolerant Netherlands, Mushrooms More Than A Meal

ZUTPHEN, Netherlands (AP) -- Want extra mushrooms on that?

They'll get to your house as fast as a Domino's pizza.  But these mushrooms
aren't pie toppings.  They're hallucinogens, the latest Dutch treat in this
country famously tolerant of "soft drugs."

Staying one step ahead of the law, a shop in this quiet eastern town is
offering home delivery of herbal ecstasy, organic "designer drugs" and at
least 600 other mind-expanding and mood-enhancing substances, including
psychedelic mushrooms.

"You might not want to eat them on a pizza because that could weaken the
effect, but you can fry them up with eggs or set a pot of tea,"
entrepreneur Alex Krassenberg said.

"Those are the weaker of the two kinds we sell," he said, pointing to a jar
filled with dried Mexican fungi.  "The Hawaiian ones are really strong."

Law enforcement authorities in the Netherlands -- where marijuana and
hashish, though technically illegal, are widely sold in small amounts
without fear of prosecution -- are taking a decidedly mellow approach.

Dutch law doesn't prohibit the sale or use of the drugs sold by
Krassenberg, but the government is reviewing its policy while researching
the potential health risks.

Although it isn't targeting mushrooms, a government task force recently
proposed a ban on four hallucinogenic plants that are fast-acting and
potentially poisonous if used in large doses.

"We feel that a few of these substances should be banned, but there is no
need for a witch hunt," said Benno Bruggink, a Health Ministry spokesman.

Although so-called "smart drugs" have already become a booming
million-dollar business in the Netherlands, Krassenberg's store is the
first to deliver to the customer's door.

Most drop-offs are free within 12 miles of Zutphen, but for a small fee
Krassenberg closes up shop, hops into his "mushroom taxi" and takes the
goods to wherever they're desired.

Church towers jut out of the flat agrarian landscape surrounding Zutphen,
set amid fields of flowers and bordering the Ijssel River. It's a rustic
setting, one fit for an oil painting by one of the Dutch masters.

Krassenberg is clearly from another generation.  His establishment -- Dr.
Paddo, The Natural Drug Store -- is frowned on by fellow shopkeepers.
Although his wares appeal mainly to the youth of the town's 30,000
inhabitants, he tells of making secret deliveries to middle-aged farmers
too shy to visit the shop.

"This is a small town.  They are interested in trying, but don't dare to
come to the store," Krassenberg said.

On a good day, Krassenberg makes up to 10 mushroom deliveries in Zutphen
and surrounding villages.  Each order costs 30 guilders ($15) and includes
home delivery.  Out-of-town orders, which can be placed until midnight on
weekends, cost an extra dollar per mile.

Krassenberg, who also sells natural alternatives to popular drugs such as
speed, ecstasy and cocaine, encloses instructions and recommended dosages
with the products he peddles.

The United States and Britain have taken a much tougher stance against such
chemicals by widely criminalizing their use.

Last year, the U.S. government prohibited the sale of ephedrine, one of the
most popular extracts used in "smart drugs." The Food and Drug
Administration cited "adverse events ranging from episodes of high blood
pressure, irregularities in heart rate, insomnia, nervousness, tremors and
headaches, to seizures, heart attacks, strokes and death."

Dutch authorities, however, say they haven't encountered any adverse social
or health problems linked to the drugs. Zutphen's only hospital said it
hasn't had a single complaint.

Even if authorities wanted to take action against Krassenberg's store, they
couldn't because the substances he delivers aren't yet legally classified,
said Rijn Brummel, spokesman for the Zutphen police.  And when a product is
prohibited, manufacturers often simply alter its chemical structure and
reintroduce it under a new name.

"We don't do anything about it because it's uncharted territory. There are
so many sorts ...," Brummel said.  "But we haven't had any problems and
don't see any reason for a crackdown."

Krassenberg insists he's doing the partying public a favor.

"Perfect alternatives like these should have been introduced a long time
ago," he said.  "They are reliable, non-addictive, and they don't give
headaches or hangovers like the real thing."
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