Interview with Sp!ts (Dutch newspaper)

Front page Sp!ts

The mushroom went underground

(Translation of the original Dutch newspaper article)

With the recent ban on the drugs khat in The Netherlands, a new question arises: what’s the status of other recently prohibited drugs? The pychocybin mushroom went underground as “triptruffle” and turns out to be an online hit. BY JORN JONKER

AMSTERDAM – Khatchewers in the Netherlands can still have fun for now. Mainly Somalis carry the drugs in the Netherlands, right from the Schiphol airport, and then trade from the Netherlands. Also to neighbouring countries where khat is illegal. But this is about to change; in addition to GHB, the government is about to forbid khat as well. According to the Dutch government, the chewers become “lethargic” (lifeless) by khat, and the trade comes with all kinds of crimes. According to minister Leers, the chewing Somalians become so sluggish by khat that the drugs are an integration problem.

“PEOPLE MAY CONTINUE WITH EVEN WORSE GOODS”

CABINET MEMBER BORIS VAN DER HAM (D66 PARTY)

But whether prohibition is an answer, remains the question. Cabinet member Boris van der Ham (D66) disagrees. “People will find different ways to get their drugs, or may continue with even worse goods.”
The prohibition of khat looks similar to the ban on psychocybin mushrooms in 2008. “Just like mushrooms khat is not a populair drug at all. It has a minority of users, and they relatively cause little problems. We must not close our eyes to the problems of addiction and trade effects, but monitoring of sales can work much better. This could have been done with psychocybin mushrooms. If we asked mushroom growers to reduce the active substance in their mushrooms, that would have worked too.” His colleague, Lea Bouwmeester (PvdA), agrees. “The ban of mushrooms resulted in the use of other drugs. The ease of introducing a prohibition is ineffective.”

Triptruffle is a big hit online

When the psychocybin mushroom became illegal, the new legal alternative, the truffle or ‘triptruffle’, was gaining populairity. The underground version of the mushroom would be less strong and the minister of Health (Klink at the time) did not forbid the truffle. After the ban of mushrooms, the GGD (municipal health service) of Amsterdam found a clear decrease of incidents caused by hallucinogens. But last year there was a slight increase. Why and whether this is caused by the popularity of the truffle, is still being researched.

Hans Grootewal (70) is very certain of the popularity of the truffle. After growing hallucinogenic mushrooms for years in Alphen (Gelderland, The Netherlands), he now grows triptruffels. He estimates that before the ban on mushrooms, he had 80 percent of the Dutch market share. “Now I have archieved the same with magic truffles.” How he looks back on the ban on magic mushrooms? “It happened really suddenly. I accused the government with damage claims, but all of them were rejected. According to the court I could grow triptruffles. They stated I had the knowhow and the right customer base for it, and truffles are legal. It was hard, but I did it.”

After many investments in truffle production, Grootewal looks back to the ban with satisfaction. To his astonishment. “Yes, now I am really happy with the ban. In terms of efficiency the truffle is the same, but most importantly, now I can dose better.” The drug grower explains that with truffles, the active substance can be regulated much easier. “If you take the right portion, truffles work just as well as the mushrooms. But mushrooms had outliers. Sometimes there were too few active substances, and sometimes just too much, which was very unfortunate.”

The truffles are a big hit online, webshops selling truffles are popping up everywhere. Like the shop of the elderly Grootewal himself. “Selling online is truly a hit. I own the site (trufflemagic.com) for only three months now, and we’re already doing great business.” Paul van Oyen, president of the Dutch consultation assosiation for smartshop-products (VLOS), confirms that more and more people are making a ‘good living’ with their online truffle sales.

The government is not sensitive to the arguments against a ban on khat, neither when looking back on other prohibitions of the past. CDA-cabinet member Coºkun Çörüz has seen enough. “It creates inconvenience for the trading point in Uithoorn. I’ve been there, people don’t even dare to fill up at the surrounding tankstations. We shouldn’t romanticize it, we’re no longer condoning it. Men who use it can barely get up the next day and it brings crime. In addition: khat may also finance terrorism.”

“The CDA party prefers to ban all kinds of drugs that trigger criminality and health issues. I would like to adopt a law that banned them all, so we no longer have to discuss every new kind of drugs over and over. Is it bad? Then forbid it right away. Çörüz is sure that khatchewers will find their own new truffle soon enough.

Especially cities are happy with khat ban

RIJSWIJK, NETHERLANDS – The announcement of the government to ban khat yesterday led to positive response, especially in the cities of Tilburg and Uithoorn. The Somali community responds with mixed reactions. The Dutch government announced the ban in a letter to their house of representatives, who asked for the prohibition last year. According to the government, the fresh leaves of the khatplant are addictive and lead to health damage and nuisance by distribution, sale and usage. Chewing is a tradition that migrants, mainly from Somalia and Ethiopia, have brought to The Netherlands.

“This is very good news for our residents and businesses”, said mayor Dagmar Oudshoorn of Uithoorn. The municipality of Tilburg has supported this nationwide ban for years. “This is an excellent discision where we can act when necessary.” Tilburg has a large Somali community who use khat. The municipality has already arranged a ban on certain spots because of the trouble back in 2007. (ANP)

Source: Sp!ts (11-01-2012 11:00)
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