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Smart shop

A smart shop (or smartshop) is a retail establishment that specializes in the sales of psychoactive substances, usually including psychedelics, as well as related literature and paraphernalia. The name derives from the so-called smart drugs, a class of drugs and food supplements intended to effect cognitive enhancements which is often on sale in smart shops.

The term had no meaning in the USA, where the sale of psychedelics was and is illegal. With the advance of the technology of personalized mass communication, the term SmartShop has recently taken on an American meaning. As of 2004 and beyond, a SmartShop is a retail superstore that provides each individual shopper with personalized recommendations on discounted items, especially relevant to the recipient. (See: personalized marketing)


Psychedelics, dissociatives, and deliriants

Smart shops are best known in practice for selling whatever psychedelics, dissociatives, entactogens and deliriants local law permits. In The Netherlands, which is home to most of the smart shops in Europe, this includes "magic" mushrooms of the genus Psilocybe, which contain the psychedelic substances psilocin and psilocybin, as well as Salvia divinorum, Amanita muscaria, Peyote, San Pedro cactus, Tabernanthe iboga, and various ingredients for Ayahuasca preparations. Magic mushrooms, known locally as paddo's, are by far the most popular product.

Education and information

Smart shops have become a natural source of information about the drugs they sell. They commonly provide instruction leaflets similar to the package inserts distributed with prescription drugs, which contain information on contra-indications, side-effects, and the importance of set and setting. In The Netherlands, there is relatively little formal regulation of the smart shop industry, but the natural concentration of expertise about a relatively exotic range of products in combination with the realization that closer public scrutiny and regulation are always lurking the background have caused the smart shops to organize into an industry association that, among other things, promotes the spread of information about its wares.

The decline of synthetic drugs

Smart shops in The Netherlands have been known in the past to sell synthetic substances that were not (yet) illegal under the Dutch Opium act. The sale of synthetic drugs not explicitly approved as food, supplements or medicines is illegal in The Netherlands. It is dealt with by the relatively benign machinery of the Warenauthoriteit (Commodities Authority) rather than in criminal law, as would be the case with controlled substances. Yet, this has made it effectively impossible to sell them in a formal retail setting, even if their production and possession is entirely legitimate. Smart shops have attempted no further marketing of synthetics since they tried to sell methylone as a "room odorizer" but were ultimately forced to pull it from their shelves in 2004.

Paraphernalia and complement products

Smart shops sell many products that can be seen as complement goods to psychoactive drugs, including illegal ones. In The Netherlands, which has no drug paraphernalia laws, this is entirely legal. In particular, the sales of literature about illegal drugs or their manufacture is rarely criticized and protected by a traditional concern for free speech in local law and custom that is more pronounced than in other European nations.

Many of the paraphernalia and complements sold in smart shops reduce, in one way or another, the harm associated with illegal drugs. For instance, reagent kits for testing the purity of ecstasy can be essential now that tablets named ecstasy can in practice contain just about anything, and often do not, in fact, contain MDMA at all. Supplements of vitamins and amino acids have been developed to mitigate specifically the damage of certain illegal drugs. Tryptophan and 5-hydroxy-tryptophan, for instance, can be used to help the body replenish serotonin levels in the brain after the use of MDMA, and vitamin supplements are appropriate for users of stimulants such as amphetamine.

Smart shops in Dutch law

Legally, the Dutch smart shops operate under a decision of the Hoge raad (Supreme Court) that has declared that unprepared mushrooms and cacti are not considered "preparations" of the substances they contain, and are therefore not banned under the Opium Act or international law even if their active ingredients are.

This legal regime is markedly different from the one that applies to cannabis products. Those are formally illegal under the Opium Act and international law, which after all explicitly bans the plant rather than the cannabinoids in it. Cannabis products such as marijuana and hashish can be sold and possessed only pursuant to a web of executive orders more-or-less silently assented to by parliament. The sales of magic mushrooms, on the other hand, was entirely legal and subject only to the common regulation of foodstuffs by the Warenauthoriteit (Commodities Authority).

Smart shops outside of The Netherlands

A smart shop is distinguished from head shops found in many countries. Head shops provide only paraphernalia, whereas smart shops usually sell at least some actual drugs. Conscious Dreams, a chain of smart shops that has been particularly active in educational activities, has opened a branch in Barcelona.

Web pages of some Smart Shops

  • Azarius
  • SomaGarden World of entheogens
  • Bud Hook Up
  • Conscious Dreams
  • Shayanashop
  • Coffeesh0p
  • Happiezz
  • Legal Highs Shop
  • Onlinesmartshop
  • Pot Seeds and Legal Highs
  • elegalhighs
  • Online Headshop
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Smart_shop". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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