- 27 Aug 08
Recently the Netherlands government moved to follow the Irish example and ban "magic mushrooms". But pro-civil liberty groups have rallied to stall the planned prohibition.
Despite the insistence of the Dutch government on a total ban, magic mushrooms are still on sale in Amsterdam’s famous smart shops and elsewhere throughout the erstwhile liberal capital of Europe. The Christian-dominated governing coalition announced a ban late last year, surfing the waves of tabloid hysteria generated by tales of death and injury which were (in some cases wrongly) attributed to the ingestion of psychoactive mushrooms.
The response of the Dutch government was similar to the Irish government’s reaction when faced with a campaign led by the family of an apparent victim of the fungi. They were not inclined towards scientific inquiry or parliamentary process, and moved to ban them outright. The difference between Ireland and the Netherlands, though, is that almost half of the members of the Dutch parliament are opposed to reactionary drug policies – and in the ensuing debate, the opposition parties were able to block the government’s attempts at an immediate ban.
In the meantime, colourful and well-attended protests have been staged by a number of impromptu campaign groups. Pro-shroom protestors staged a demonstration in the centre of Amsterdam, sent mushrooms to members of parliament and sprayed government buildings with mushroom spores.
The protestors’ point was a simple one: banning nature is preposterous. Just as Ireland’s native Liberty Caps continued to grow even after they were made illegal by Mary Harney, so the Dutch ‘paddos’ would still flourish naturally despite the whims of politicians.
The resistance has had some success, and the Dutch government has been called to answer a long list of questions regarding the proposed ban.
When parliament finally gets around to talking about the mushrooms, they should take account of the latest research into the elusive pyschedelics, which demonstrates that the mushroom’s active ingredient, psilocybin, elicits full-blown mystical experiences – which many volunteers have reported as life-changing, spiritually significant events which help them to lead better lives.
Ironically, the implications of the latest findings from John Hopkins University indicate that psilocybin may effectively be an ‘anti-drug’ itself, and researchers are now looking into its potential use in fighting alcoholism and other drug addictions.
“It does sound counter-intuitive,” lead researcher Roland Griffiths says. “But six of the 12 AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] steps are related to a higher power and surrendering to it. Many people don’t engage fully into the 12-step programme because they don’t feel any connection to a ‘higher power’. One can’t help but wonder whether an experience like this might be useful.”
Useful or not, the role of psilocybin as fuel for spiritual exploration raises important questions about the rights of governments to outlaw naturally occuring substances.
Given the Dutch government’s Christian heritage, shouldn’t they be supporting people’s attempts at spiritual exploration and self-improvement?