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Editorial: A shocking discovery

When officers bust a drug-related operation these days, they’re far more likely to encounter a methamphetamine lab than a home-based system for growing “magic mushrooms.”
The latter, however, is what Salisbury police discovered Wednesday night when they were summoned to a house on Maupin Avenue. What they found inside shocked them, as well as nearby residents on the quiet residential street where agricultural activities are far more likely to concern marigolds and mulch than mood-altering fungi. According to the lore of the psychedelic ’60s, mushrooms of the psilocybin variety may have been popular among the drug abusers of the Woodstock generation, but in these days of Ecstacy and crack cocaine, it’s indeed a rarity to have a rogue mushroom lab pop up in the middle of town.
While mushroom production doesn’t pose toxic dangers as severe as those related to meth factories, it would be a mistake to view this as a more of an oddity than a potentially hazardous situation. Simply by virtue of its illegality, any type of drug operation ultimately brings unsavory elements into a community, whether it’s buyers seeking drugs for themselves or dealers wanting to broaden their horizons. Along with the potential environmental dangers officers found inside the house, there’s also the danger of the mushrooms themselves. Hallucinogenic mushrooms can cause “bad trips” in more ways than one, with physical symptoms that include sweating, nausea and/or vomiting, and anxiety. And someone who mistakenly ingests the wrong mushroom may not only suffer a bad trip but one from which there’s no return.
It’s highly unlikely that this incident signals Salisbury has a “magic mushroom” problem, although we’ll have to await results of further investigation to determine exactly what was going on here. These days, most mushroom activity involves legal farming of varieties that are safe for human consumption, not the “magic” kind. But this episode provides an unusual sidelight for discussion at the statewide forum on public safety taking place today in Salisbury, and it relates to the meeting’s subject of gang activity in one noteworthy way. No matter how quiet or well-insulated from crime a neighborhood may appear to be, nefarious activities can take place anywhere ó and often crop up in unexpected places. If you suspect something’s not right in your neighborhood, alert authorities. Don’t be lulled into thinking “it can’t be happening on my street.” Community activism and strong neighborhood watch programs are among the best tactics to keep crime from mushrooming.

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