The Rise of Psychedelic Truffles in Amsterdam

Uploaded by vice on Oct 8, 2012


HAMILTON MORRIS: Today is Queen's Day in Amsterdam, and
I have three containers of
psilocybin-containing truffles.
I'm going to start by taking 8 grams of this 15-gram
container, because that's what the man at the smart shop
advised me to do.
And then I suppose I'm going to go out and walk around on
Queen's Day, which is incredibly chaotic and
And probably the worst possible place to take them.

This is the first time I've ever consumed
a psychedelic truffle.
You can't really get these in the United
States as far as I know.
It's actually much less of a mushroom.
It doesn't seem like very much at all.


Yesterday, I arrived in Amsterdam, doubtlessly one of
the sickest places on Earth to get blazed on dank nugs.

But my interest is not solely confined to blazing dank nugs.
Amsterdam is fertile ground for all manner of
psychoactive substance.

I came here to find the psilocybe tampanensis
sclerotium, or philosopher's stone truffle.
It was not until the infamous mushroom ban of 2008 that the
psychedelic sclerotium gained widespread popularity, due to
the fact that its effects and chemical composition are
almost indistinguishable from the psilocybin mushroom.
Mushrooms were once completely legal.
And since the early '90s, the Netherlands led the world in
the development of commercial psychedelic mushroom-growing
But everything changed in 2008, when the Dutch
government banned psilocybin-containing
mushrooms, responding to a number of highly publicized
deaths misguidedly blamed on the innocent fungus.
Truffles escaped the ban unscathed and hold a place
inside the hearts of all true Dutch.
I am here to learn about how these strange protuberances
are cultivated and why they have not been banned.
There are no better people to consult than the Truffle
Brothers, two of the world's leading experts in the mass
production of psychedelic sclerotia.

I visited the brothers' farm in Hazerwoude-Dorp, formerly
the second-largest mushroom farm in the Netherlands.

Having survived the mushroom ban, the Truffle Brothers now
dominate the
psilocybin-containing fungus industry.
I sat down with Murat and Ali to discuss the secrets of the
philosopher's stone.

ALI: First of all, my name is Ali.
Next to me is sitting my brother, Murat.
We are, in fact, known as the Truffle Brothers.
You are here at the farm of
We produce sclerotia, also known as magic truffles.
HAMILTON MORRIS: And how did this company get started?
ALI: Interesting story.
Long story that started somewhere around
1993, '94, I guess.
I learned mushroom growing in Belgium.
Mushrooms for eating-- normal, white button mushrooms.
That was my occupation before I
started with these mushrooms.
And so I had quite a great network in that
area, in that field.
And one day, a friend of mine comes up to me and says, look
what I found.
He shows me a Petri dish with spores.
That's interesting, what kind of mushroom is it?
He said, well, it's a magic mushroom.
And I'd never heard of it.
So I took a closer look.
I went to a friend of mine who owned a laboratory, a
mycological laboratory, and asked him, can we do something
with these spores?
He says, well, let's give it a try.
And after two weeks, there was one mushroom in the aquarium.
But it was a giant mushroom.
It was about [INAUDIBLE]
this tall.
And we were looking at it.
I said, OK, let's harvest it.
HAMILTON MORRIS: And you were operating a pizza restaurant
beforehand, you said?
MURAT: At that time, yes.
HAMILTON MORRIS: The life cycle of a mushroom begins
when two spores of opposite mating types germinate in a
growth substrate and send out threads called "hyphae." The
hyphae form a clamp connection where genetic information is
exchanged and then expand into a web of undifferentiated
threads called "mycelium." If the conditions are right, the
mycelium organizes itself into a mushroom with special
reproductive cells called basidia, which catapult spores
into the air and give rise to new mushrooms.
And you bought this property?
MURAT: Not in the first place.
ALI: First of all, we were in the--
MURAT: We started in my place, in the bedroom of my daughter.
With several aquaria this time.
After the one aquarium, I started to get our aquariums.
ALI: Start searching on the street at night and people
were throwing out their old aquariums.
Yeah, there's one.
Let's take it.
MURAT: My daughter's room was filled with, I think, about 12
ALI: Something like that.
MURAT: Or something.
And we started to grow mushrooms in there.
Then we rented our first place, in a town called
Leiderdorp, not far from here.
We made some sheds out of plastic foil
with shelves in it.
And there we started our first professional growth.
ALI: Yeah, yeah.
Right after that, we moved to a bigger plays with ten
growing houses.
MURAT: But it wasn't enough.
The demand was so high that we
couldn't make enough mushrooms.
ALI: And then we saw this, which was far more ideal.
HAMILTON MORRIS: And what were you growing--
What sorts of mushrooms were you growing before the
mushroom ban?
MURAT: We had several species of the psilocybe cubensis.
And the panaeolus cyanescens.
HAMILTON MORRIS: And that was what you
sold more than anything?
More than the truffles you sold?
Truffles were just for the connoisseur.
It was a side project in that time.

HAMILTON MORRIS: To better understand the prohibition of
the sacred mushroom, I go to meet criminal lawyer Karem
Canatan, who explained the nuances of Dutch drug law.
Well, first of all, like many countries, we have class A
drugs and class B drugs.
So that that's not different from any other countries.
So we have lists of drugs that are illegal--
to buy it, to use it, to bring it over the border to trade.
It's completely illegal.
Then we have a small portion of drugs--
in Holland, we call it the "soft drugs"-- where you have
weed and hashish and the joints.
Or we call it joints, because we smoke joints.
I don't know if that's the correct term, but we have
which is called like a tolerance policy by the Dutch
And they have on paper saying that if the amount isn't
bigger than so-and-so much, then it's allowed to have it,
it's allowed to smoke it, and you are allowed to sell it.
So up until around 2007, it was OK to
use the magic mushrooms.
HAMILTON MORRIS: These were the salad days for mushrooms.
But a series of unfortunate incidents where mentally ill
tourists hurt themselves turned politicians against the
sacred mushroom.
And they began to legislate a ban.

HAMILTON MORRIS: And there had been scattered mushroom
incidents in Amsterdam for decades, it was not until the
death of a 17-year-old French student named Gaelle Caroff
that lawmakers began taking serious steps towards banning
the sale and consumption of psychedelic mushrooms.


HAMILTON MORRIS: After the incident with
Gaelle, others followed.
A Frenchman, supposedly under the influence of mushrooms,
ritualistically sacrificed his dog with a pair of kitchen
shears in order to free the dog's mind from
its corporeal shackles.

ALI: He said, well, I was on mushrooms.
He had psychosis.
And it had nothing to do with mushrooms.
He wasn't even close to mushrooms.
Since these products are legal in this country, it's very
easy to hide yourself behind it.

HAMILTON MORRIS: With prohibition looming on the
horizon, protesters swarmed the parliament building, armed
with Super Soakers filled with psychedelic mushroom spores,
which they used to spray the surrounding parks and lawns.
They demanded their right to consume mushrooms.
But parliament ruled in favor of the ban.
So in 2008 they banned all of these
different genus and species.
Well, part of them were already on it.
But especially this list from here.
The magic mushroom list.
And it says here that magic mushrooms are mushrooms who
have by nature these and these active ingredients.
And then all these species are on the list.
ALI: The law changed in 2008--
1st of December, 2008.
Sad day.
Saddest day of my life.

HAMILTON MORRIS: How much time did they give you after the
ban to get rid of your stock of mushrooms?
MURAT: 10 days.
ALI: 10 days to clear 16 growing houses, all the
equipment, and so on.
HAMILTON MORRIS: And you were saying all these other
different bans have been given enormous amounts of time,
years before they have to--
ALI: Mink farms, for instance.
They got 10 years to change the plans.
ALI: 10 years.
HAMILTON MORRIS: And you got ten days.
ALI: 10 days.
Look at that.
HAMILTON MORRIS: How did you get rid of the mushrooms?
ALI: That was the easiest part, because people were
lined up here.
the last mushrooms, the last mushrooms.
HAMILTON MORRIS: Despite the chemical and biological
similarity to the mushroom, parliament decided not to ban
the magic truffle.
ALI: When the law changed in 2008, we just continued with
the truffles that we were already growing in that time.
HAMILTON MORRIS: So what is a truffle?
And how is it different from a mushroom?
for nutrients and moisture.
HAMILTON MORRIS: Like all organisms, a
fungus seeks to reproduce.
But environmental conditions are not always ideal to do so.
If the substrate is too dry, cold, hot, or poor in
nutrients, the mycelium will grow inwards, forming a
tangled clump of globular fungus called a sclerotium.
These hard structures are able to survive in harsh
environmental conditions until the time is right to send
forth mushrooms.

Murat offered to give me a guided tour of their
innovative sclerotium cultivation facilities.
MURAT: We'll start where it all begins.
That's the dirty side where all raw materials come in.

HAMILTON MORRIS: First, the rye grass seed substrate is
sterilized in an industrial-sized autoclave to
kill opportunistic bacteria and fungi, which are equally
eager to consume the bags of warm, moist nutrients.

Then the bags are inoculated with a
liquid culture of mycelium.
MURAT: This is a class 100 cleanroom.
That means that only 100 particles of 0.00096 micron
may be present in one cubic feet of air.
Normally in an operating room it's class 10,000, so 10,000
particles may appear in a cubic foot of air.
ALI: If you do everything, like your laboratory work and
your growing, under one roof, you get a cross-contamination
somewhere, somehow.
And that risk was so big that we looked for a proper
building with at least two separate departments.
HAMILTON MORRIS: Then the bags are transported to an
incubation chamber, where a temperature of 28 degrees
Celsius is maintained to accelerate the colonization of
the substrate.
How do you prevent the growth of mushrooms?
MURAT: By controlling the temperature and the
microclimate in the bag.
The microclimate in the bag is not suitable for
formation of mushrooms.
HAMILTON MORRIS: The final stage is the nursery, where
the bags are kept in darkness for as many as five months
before the sclerotia are mature.
And what is the capacity of this plant at the moment?
MURAT: Full capacity, if we worked 24 hours a day in three
shifts, 18,000 tons per year.
ALI: Something like that, yeah.
HAMILTON MORRIS: 18,000 tons?
ALI: Yes.
MURAT: Yeah.
MURAT: I think that sclerotia, to go for the mushroom market
one-on-one, by now--
ALI: By now it's one-on-one, yeah.
HAMILTON MORRIS: Upon maturity, the bags are opened
the sclerotia are plucked from their substrate, cleaned with
a soft-bristled brush, and packaged for distribution.
It seems your brand is the only brand, except for one
another that I saw, that you can get at
smart shops in Amsterdam.
MURAT: Yeah.
That might be correct.
There are some home growers, but as far as commercially
grown sclerotia, I think we're the largest.
HAMILTON MORRIS: Do you have any competitors?
MURAT: Everyone who grows a truffle is a competitor.
Each package contains a single serving of fresh,
psilocybin-containing sclerotia.
MURAT: We deliver them to the shop in boxes of 24.
We give the shops 24 booklets so that people get the proper

Murat invited me to join him on his delivery route and
visit the magic truffle storefront in Amsterdam.

The Dutch countryside touched us both deeply, but we could
not linger on these natural delights.
We had important sclerotium deliveries to make.

One of the stops was a wholesale psychedelics
distributor specializing in peyote cacti.

We finally made it to the shop, and not a minute too
soon as the hoards of truffle-hungry Dutch waited
eagerly for their Queen's Day delights.
HAMILTON MORRIS: Chills and Thrills was not the truffle
theme park I was expecting, but I knew the real ride would
come later.
SPEAKER 1: you?
I would like to buy some P. Tampanensis.
SPEAKER 1: you.
HAMILTON MORRIS: The truffles require no preparation.
And thought the truffle brothers recommended a
truffle-based milkshake, I chose to take them raw so that
I could savor their essences.

That's not bad at all.
It's actually kind of good.

It has almost a sour aftertaste, but sour is the
last taste I would associate with a truffle.

Do you want some truffle crumbs?
Scarf them down.
Tastes pretty darn--
uh, like a wet nut.
This is a drug?
This is a drug?
This is technically a drug?
All right.

KAREM CANATAN: Well, I don't have any
experience with the truffles.
But if it's not a health risk and it doesn't have any other
negative side effects, I would say allow it.
And then make sure you can control it.
HAMILTON MORRIS: What sort of person
buys psychedelic truffles?
MURAT: I don't think there's a specific type of person.
Age has nothing to do with it.
We've had people in their 80s coming for mushrooms.
ALI: Yeah, or people who are curious for the experience who
think there's more in life than the
regular things we see.
And there's also the real cosmonauts, who use it for the
real spiritual thing, like the shamanic experiences.
HAMILTON MORRIS: What category would you put yourselves into?
ALI: None.
You don't use your own product?
ALI: No.
MURAT: Bummer.

HAMILTON MORRIS: While the Mazatec Indians prescribed
special conditions under which the sacred mushroom should be
consumed, there exist little-known rituals
surrounding the psychedelic sclerotium.
Their history remains unwritten.
Though I feel sweaty and overwhelmed by the chaos of
Queen's Day, I feel no compulsion to ritualistically
stab a dog and play with its internal organs in a van.
Nor do I wish to jump off a bridge to a watery death.
I'm glad that the resilient structure of the sclerotium
has survived the inhospitable environment of prohibition.
And I hope that it sends forth mycelial threads of liberty
for many years to come.