The cultivation, manufacture, possession, use, selling, or supply of psilocybin or magic mushrooms is illegal in Australia. Excessive penalties are imposed for this offence and offenders can face imprisonment and expect a criminal record.
A hallucinogen is a drug that has the potential to produce hallucinations. A hallucination is a false perception and it can be produced naturally or synthetically. Natural hallucinogens are found in certain types of mushrooms or psilocybin.
The effects of hallucinogens vary from person to person. The effect of hallucinogens will depend on the individual, the type of drug, and the environment. The size, gender, health, mood, and various other factors will affect hallucinogens. The amount of the drug, the purity of the drug, and the way it is taken will also influence the effect of the hallucinogens.
Australian magic mushrooms look much like ordinary mushrooms. The most common magic mushrooms in Australia are golden tops, liberty caps, and blue meanies. Golden tops and blue meanies are named after the colour of the mushrooms. Liberty caps are named after the shape of the mushrooms.
It is very dangerous to pick and eat wild mushrooms. Magic mushrooms can look similar to poisonous mushroom varieties. This makes it very dangerous for people to just pick and eat mushrooms without the proper knowledge of the differences between the different varieties. It is difficult to distinguish between the different mushrooms, especially the more poisonous look-alikes. Poisonous mushrooms can cause permanent liver damage or sometimes death.
Psilocybin or magic mushrooms belong to a group of drugs called psychedelics. Australian psychedelic mushrooms contain psilocybin, a hallucinogenic compound. Psilocybin converts to psilocin in the body and this provides psychoactive properties. Over 200 different types of mushrooms have these natural psychedelics or hallucinogenic properties. The amount of psilocybin is different in the various types of mushrooms.
Magic mushrooms grow naturally in Australia and there are approximately about 30 species of psilocybin mushrooms in Australia. Some of these mushrooms are native magic mushrooms, while others were introduced from Europe, Asia, and America. Magic mushrooms are found in every environment on earth.
Psilocybe subaeruginosa, psilocybe alutacea, and psilocybe tasmaniana are some of the more common magic mushroom species found in Australia.
Magic mushrooms can be consumed in different ways:
· Steeped in hot water to make tea
· Placed into capsule form
· Mixed with other plant-based substances and smoked
It is important to be careful when taking any type of drug, whether it is synthetic or natural. There is no safe level of drug use and using drugs always carries some sort of risk.
Magic mushrooms can affect each person differently based on the following:
· Weight, height, size, and the health of a person
· Whether the person has taken drugs before
· Whether a person mixes and take different drugs together
· The amount of drugs taken
· The strength of the mushroom depends on the type of mushroom ingested
· The environment where the drug is taken
Some of the effects of magic mushrooms are:
· Increased feeling of wellbeing
· Change in consciousness
· Change in mood, thought, and perception
· Visual or auditory hallucinations or both
· Dilation of pupils
The effects of magic mushrooms are rarely life-threatening. A person can however experience some side-effects. Some side effects of magic mushrooms are:
· Upset stomach
· Nausea and vomiting
· An increase in body temperature
· Paranoia and panic
· Muscle Weakness
· Lack of coordination
These physical effects appear within minutes of ingestion and it can last for about 6 hours. The use of magic mushrooms or psilocybin can lead to negative physical and psychological consequences or a bad trip. Some of the psychological consequences can include anxiety, intense hallucinations, and a person can develop an inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. The user can experience panic reactions and psychosis, especially if they ingest larger doses.
There is no evidence that users of magic mushrooms can become dependent on psilocybin. However, users do develop a tolerance for the drug if it is ingested continuously over some time. A person can have delayed headaches after taking magic mushrooms. These headaches usually do not last longer than a day. The person might also experience exhaustion, depression, or anxiety.
Some people who regularly use magic mushrooms may experience flashbacks. These flashbacks usually involve previous magic mushroom experiences. These flashbacks are usually visual distortions that involve changes in a person’s emotions or perception. A person can experience flashbacks for weeks, months, or even years after the drug was taken. Stress, exercise, fatigue, or the use of other drugs can increase the likelihood of a flashback. Flashbacks usually last a minute or two.
The effects of taking magic mushrooms with other illegal drugs or over-the-counter medication or prescribed medications can be unpredictable and potentially dangerous. Taking magic mushrooms with ice, speed, or ecstasy can increase a person’s chances to experience a bad trip that can lead to panic. Magic mushrooms should also not be used with psychiatric medications as it can lead to a relapse or the condition can worsen.
The legislative document that determines how a substance is restricted in Australia is called the Poisons Standard. The Therapeutic Goods Administration or TGA manages and updates the Poisons Standard through public consultation. The drugs are listed in Schedules. For example, Schedule 8 lists controlled drugs, and Schedule 9 lists prohibited substances.
The Office of Drug Control lists the laws and regulations that apply to drugs. Other federal laws can also apply and include:
· The Narcotic Drugs Act of 1967
· The Criminal Code Act 1995
· Import and export regulations
Common drug offences usually include possession, use, making or cultivating, importing, supplying, or selling. Each state or territory is responsible for establishing its fines and penalties. Individual states can decriminalise psychedelics without the approval of the federal government.
Psilocybin is a schedule 9 substance. It is recognised as a prohibited substance according to the Commonwealth Poisons Standard. Schedule 9 of the Poisons Standard gives a general description of substances and psilocybin or magic mushrooms are illegal at a federal level.
Psilocybin and its derivatives are listed as a prohibited drug in New South Wales in Schedule 1 of the Drugs Misuses and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW). It is illegal to supply or possess magic mushrooms in Australia.
Schedule 1 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act prescribes different labels for various amounts of prohibited drugs. The severity of penalties increases as the amount of drugs increases. Penalties under the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 vary based on the drug type and the amount present rather than the perceived seriousness of the drug. These quantities are based on the weight alone and the purity or the concentration of the drug is not taken into account.
The Act categorises the number of drugs into small, trafficable, indictable, commercial, and large commercial quantity. The different quantity ranges for psilocybin are:
· 0.04g is considered a small quantity
· 0.15g is considered a trafficable quantity
· 0.25g is considered an indictable quantity
· 25g is considered a commercial quantity
· 100g is considered a large commercial quantity
Cultivating a Prohibited Plant
It is important to remember it is a criminal offence to cultivate certain plants that can be used to produce prohibited substances such as magic mushrooms. A person can be found guilty of cultivating a prohibited plant if they:
· Have a prohibited plant in their possession
· Cultivate a prohibited plant
· Knowingly take part in the cultivation of a prohibited plant
· Supply a prohibited plant
· Knowingly supply a prohibited plant
The penalty for the offence of cultivating a prohibited plant depends on the quantity of the prohibited plants found. The plant does not have to be on the same site. The charges will take the total number of plants into account, even if they are on multiple sites. The penalty will depend on the type of plant, the number of plants, and whether the legal matter is dealt with in the local or district court.
It is important to consider the consequences before buying or selling psilocybin, psilocybin spores, or magic mushrooms. There are several websites selling magic mushrooms in Australia, but a person has to understand that purchasing magic mushrooms online is illegal. However, there is no law against the possessing or buying of magic mushroom spores without the intention of cultivating them.
Magic mushroom spores and grow kits are theoretically legal to possess in Australia because these kits do not contain psilocybin. However, the cultivation of magic mushrooms from these spores is illegal.
Possessing or supplying magic mushrooms in Australia carries heavy penalties. This can include a conviction and jail time. Each State or Territory has its laws regarding substances such as magic mushrooms. A person can face different penalties depending on the State or Territory.
Penalties for possessing or supplying psilocybin can carry a maximum penalty of up to two years imprisonment or a $2,200 – $5,500 fine. Offenders who plead guilty to the offence receive a conditional release order, without conviction, or a fine only, with a conviction.
Section 25(1) of the Drugs Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW) stipulates a person who supplies, or who knowingly takes part in the supply of psilocybin is guilty of an offence. The offence can be dealt with summarily if the offence involves less than a commercial quantity. The maximum penalty of a $5,500 fine and/or two years imprisonment applies.
If an offender is caught with an amount of psilocybin larger than the commercial quantity, the offence carries an applicable maximum penalty of a $385,000 fine and/or twenty years imprisonment. A quantity that is more than the large commercial quantity attracts a maximum penalty of a $550,000 fine and/or life imprisonment. Offences involving commercial and large commercial quantities of psilocybin are strictly indictable. These cases cannot be dealt with in the Local Court and therefore will only be heard before the District Court.
The relatively low threshold for a large commercial quantity of psilocybin has raised some concerns. The penalties and fines are excessive. Even possessing a handful of mushrooms can have disastrous legal consequences for an offender.
Australian magic mushrooms have been used by some Indigenous communities around the world for more than 1 000 years. The hippies began to experiment with psychedelic drugs in the 60s and this created moral panic and negative media coverage. Scientists became interested in psilocybin and how its effects can help people with mental illness. Despite promising findings, psychedelic research ended in the 70s.
However, this is changing and since the early 2000’s a growing interest in the benefits of psychedelics like psilocybin has started a new wave of research and interest in Australia and overseas. The National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that the use of hallucinogens has increased since 2001 and most of these people have used magic mushrooms.
Advocacy groups are seeking to have psilocybin rescheduled to a controlled medicine. These groups are pushing toward the legalisation of magic mushrooms because of the proven efficacy of psilocybin as a treatment for various conditions. The group is advocating for the use of psilocybin to treat chronic anxiety, depression, and PTSD. They want to make it easier for doctors to prescribe psilocybin due to successful medical trials for the above conditions.
The application of these advocacy groups has been rejected pending more trials and studies for medical application in the field of psychotherapy. The use of psilocybin is currently only legal in clinical trials and psychedelic-assisted therapies funded by a $15 million grant from the Australian Government.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration is also conducting a review to reconsider the rescheduling of MDMA and psilocybin from a Schedule 9 to a Schedule 8 medicine. New laws might be coming soon due to research and clinical trial successes, but until then the possession and supply of Australian magic mushrooms or psilocybin remain criminalised across each Australian state and territory.
If you have been charged with a drug offence in NSW, you should contract a drug lawyer.
Contact Lyons Law Group if you need assistance with any drug-related legal matter.