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By Ilse de Lange


Legal challenge launched to legalise ‘magic’ mushrooms

The Illegal Substances Act's constitutionality could be placed under the microscope.

A Somerset West traditional healer has approached the Western Cape High Court to legalise the possession and use of psychedelic “magic” mushrooms.

Meanwhile, the High Court in Pretoria last week granted an order staying the criminal trial of Channelie Vandenberg, a 32-year-old horticulturalist from Somerset West, pending the outcome of a constitutional challenge to the criminalisation of mushrooms containing the psychedelic compound psilocybin.

In the Western Cape High Court case, an order was granted to stay the criminal trial of Monica Cromhout, a traditional healer from Somerset West, pending her application aimed at getting psychedelic mushrooms legalised.

In October last year, Vandenberg and her estranged husband were arrested and spent two nights in holding cells before appearing in the Krugersdorp Magistrate’s court on a charge of possession and cultivation of psilocybin-containing mushrooms.

Vandenberg said in court papers she intended challenging the constitutionality of the Illegal Substances Act.

She believed the enjoyment and cultivation of magic mushrooms should not be a crime. However, she was advised that Cromhout had already launched such an application.

Vandenberg’s submission mirrored Cromhout’s contention that the criminalisation of psychedelic mushrooms was absurd, as there existed no evidence that it was harmful or addictive; it punished offenders for a victimless offence; and it disregarded documented beneficial effect in combating mental disorders like depression and anxiety.

Cromhout, in turn, maintained that the prohibition owed its existence to “outdated and unfounded convictions on the harmfulness and dependence-producing effects of psilocybin, motivated by power-seeking governments of the world with questionable political agendas”.

She insisted the prohibition stemmed from “totalitarian paternalism”.

  • In March, the Western Cape High Court ruled that the ban on the cultivation and use of dagga by adults in private homes was unconstitutional and gave Parliament 24 months to amend the Drug Trafficking Act and Medicines Control Act.



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