About one week before the major bong shop crackdown swept across the US, a smaller raid hit Psylocybe Fanaticus, one of America’s oldest and best-known sellers of mail-order mushroom spores.
Based in the small Washington town of Amanda Park, the four defendants allegedly sold psilocybe mushroom spores and kits by mail-order through the internet and ads in High Times magazine.
Psylocybe Fanaticus publications and internet articles describe how to seal mushroom spores in a syringe, which is then used to inoculate a sterile medium. They pioneered this technique, and also allegedly sold such syringes through their mail-order business.
In making their grand jury indictment, DEA agents admitted to having invesitgated Psylocybe Fanaticus for years. Agents had been regularly surveilling the home of Robert and Margaret McPherson, two of the accused. Agents had bought spores from the business and tracked the quantity of their shipments going through the Amanda Park post office.
In a raid on the McPhersons’ home, agents allegedly found a mushroom-growing operation and live mushrooms. A simultaneous raid on the home of Steven Coggin, another of the accused, allegedly found spore syringes and mushroom-growing equipment.
A press release about the raids from the US Department of Justice explains that “the indictment is based on a joint investigation by agents and investigators from the Drug Enforcement Administration in Seattle, National Park Service, and the United States Postal Inspection Service.”
In an article in the Seattle Times, one of the McPhersons’ Amanda Park neighbors said the mail-order business wasn’t much of a secret. “It’s a small town,” said the unnamed neighbor, who described Robert McPherson as an intelligent, talented jazz musician in his mid-50s. “They’ve been great neighbors, really nice people,” he added. “They’ve been awesome with my kids.”
The Psylocybe Fanaticus website at www.fanaticus.com appears to be no longer functioning. At this time it is unclear whether the website has been seized by the DEA, or has simply been shut down.
If convicted, each of the accused faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Japan bans mushrooms
Last year, Japan moved to shut down once-legal mushroom dealers. As of June 2002, possession of psychoactive mushrooms in Japan can get a maximum seven year sentence, equivalent to that for heroin and cocaine.
The psychoactive drugs psilocybin and psilocin were banned in 1990, but not the mushrooms that naturally produce them. Many Japanese headshops had long been selling a variety of imported and locally grown psychoactive mushrooms for up to $23 US per gram.
Japanese officials told the media that at least 11 varieties of psychoactive mushrooms were being sold in Tokyo. Since they were classified as poisonous plants and not a drug, they were permitted for sale so long as they were not labelled as food. Under the new law, the mushrooms are classified as a drug in any form, and their cultivation, sale and use is prohibited.
Holland allows only fresh shrooms
In November 2002, the Dutch Supreme Court upheld convictions in two cases where the parties were convicted of manufacturing and selling dried psychoactive mushrooms.
The grower and the owner of a shop that sold the mushrooms were convicted in 2000 for growing and selling dried mushrooms in various ways, including in prepared food. They were sentenced only to community service, but they appealed the case.
The Dutch Supreme Court apheld their convictions, ruling that only fresh mushrooms are legal, and they cannot be dried, ground or otherwise processed. Fresh mushrooms are still sold openly in numerous Dutch shops.
“This Supreme Court decision clears up the dispute for manufactured hallucinogenic mushrooms,” said Leendert de Lange, a spokesman for The Netherlands Public Prosecutor’s office in The Hague. “Now it is clear for us how we can deal with this issue.”
“It is clear that dried mushrooms are forbidden,” continued de Lange. “We are pleased the court has affirmed the stance of the Public Prosecutors office. I do not want to comment of the status of fresh mushrooms at this time.”