DENPASAR (Jakarta Post/Asia News Network) - Police in Bali have warned residents as well as tourists to avoid consumption of "magic mushrooms", warning it could lead to a prison term.
"All people who consume and trade in magic mushrooms are violating the Narcotics Law," Denpasar Police drug section head Comr. I Gede Ganefo said recently.
Popularly known as magic mushrooms, the psilocybin mushroom has been included as a type 1 narcotic since earlier this year.
Magic mushrooms used to be sold, and openly promoted, at dozens of food stalls and restaurants in Bali, especially in the Kuta area, often as juice or in omelets.
With the new classification as a narcotic, magic mushrooms are no longer openly advertised. However, one seller, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "You can still easily find magic mushrooms in the Poppies area."
Ganefo said the police had actively disseminated information on the danger of consuming magic mushrooms to the public, as well as restaurants, in Kuta.
"Many people do not yet know that magic mushrooms are illegal and they could face a prison term if they sell or consume them. They think it is all right as they grow naturally in manure," Ganefo said.
Denpasar Police, in cooperation with Kuta Police, began promoting information on the narcotic status of magic mushrooms in September this year, also putting up banners stating that magic mushrooms are illegal.
"We found several restaurants selling magic mushrooms. But as we are still promoting information on the new law, we haven't taken them to court. We are encouraging them not to sell magic mushrooms anymore," he said.
But he said police would start clamping down on the drug from next month.
"If we find any people selling or consuming magic mushrooms, we will arrest them. They could face the same charges as those using marijuana and other drugs, a minimum four-year and maximum 12-year prison term," Ganefo said.
Ganefo, who was formerly Kuta Police chief, said magic mushrooms were a favourite with foreign tourists in Kuta and the surrounding area. He noted that magic mushrooms were a hallucinogenic, and could result in death.
"Several years ago, a foreigner in Kuta died when he jumped from a hotel balcony after consuming magic mushrooms," said Ganefo.
A psychiatrist working with addictions, Denny Thong, said the police must strictly ban magic mushrooms as they had an extremely dangerous impact on users.
"Magic mushrooms contain a powerful hallucinogen that endangers those who consume them. It can cause mental health problems," he stated, adding that different people reacted differently to magic mushrooms.
"Those who feel happy, can be extremely happy, and vice versa. Sometimes, they can also feel an exaggerated fear," he said.