As the dust settles on cannabis legalization in Canada, one Vancouver activist is setting his sights to what he hopes will be the next drug legalized — psilocybin mushrooms, aka “magic” mushrooms.
And you can buy them from him right now — if you’ve got the paperwork.
Longtime cannabis activist Dana Larsen has launched Medicinal Mushroom Dispensary, a website to sell and distribute what he says are medicinal doses of magic mushrooms. With a prescription from a doctor or naturopath, Canadians can sign up for a membership to buy capsules containing medicinal micro-doses of the drug.
He says he’s modelled the project off of early cannabis dispensaries he previously opened in Vancouver.
“It’s really modelled on our early dispensary that we started 10 years ago with the Vancouver Dispensary Society, and just substituting micro-doses of mushrooms instead of cannabis,” Larsen told HuffPost.
A 2017 Scientific Reports study suggests that psilocybin may “reset” the activity of key brain circuits known to impact depression.
But don’t expect any life-changing vision quests or trips — the mushrooms Larsen sells are intended for medicinal use, ranging from one to 10 per cent of a normal recreational dose. Larsen sources all of the mushrooms from a single supplier that specializes in medicinal strains, grinds them up and puts them into pill capsules, which can be shipped anywhere in Canada.
The capsules come in three sizes ranging from 25 to 100 mg, and prices range from $2.50 to $8 each.
As for the legality of it, psychedelic drugs – including magic mushrooms and other drugs like MDMA or ayahuasca – are classified as illicit substances in Canada under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. But Larsen doesn’t think the micro-dose sized amounts he’s selling will be much of a problem.
“I mean it’s ultimately it’s up to the police,” he said. “But because it’s only micro-doses and because I’m screening for medical use, I feel it’s going to be a very low priority.”
He says while other online retailers sell illicit drugs like magic mushrooms and try to stay under the police radar, he wants to be as open about it as possible.
Larsen is currently operating without a business licence, but plans to open a storefront by the end of the summer. When he does, he hopes it’s treated similarly to past grey market cannabis stores in Vancouver.
Watch: Oakland becomes second U.S. city to legalize ‘magic mushrooms.’ Story continues below.
“I’ve got my lawyers on standby — if the police want to charge me I’m happy to go to court,” Larsen told HuffPost. “I’m pretty confident that mushroom microdoses are legally defensible.”
They will soon be legal in a medical context, too.
Mark Haden is an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia School of Population and Public Health, and the executive director of the Canadian chapter of the Multi-Disciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). He says there are currently clinical trials underway that could legalize psychedelics in certain medical settings in Canada by 2022.
These include research into MDMA-assisted treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and psilocybin-containing mushrooms as a way to treat depression or anxiety.
“At the end of all of those, psychedelics will be legalized, and they’ll be legalized in the context of therapy for specific issues,” Haden told HuffPost.
Haden agrees with Larsen that legalizing psychedelics requires shifts in public opinion. He said it’s a “process, not an event” and would ideally follow a similar path as cannabis did.
Haden cited Vancouver’s municipal enforcement of cannabis before it was legalized as a potential model psychedelics legalization could follow. As police scaled back enforcement of laws around cannabis, more and more dispensaries opened, prompting a need for regulation.
“Regulators eventually stepped up to the plate and said, ‘okay, we need to regulate this’,” Haden said. “So it was pushed by the entrepreneurs, and then it was regulated by the bureaucrats. And now we have regulated cannabis.”
So could more stores like Larsen’s open?
Psychedelics are already in the process of legalization elsewhere. In May, the City of Denver voted to make psilocybin mushrooms the lowest priority in terms of law enforcement. And on June 4, city council in Oakland, California voted unanimously to stop city funds from being used to enforce laws criminalizing people for the use or possession of many psychedelics.
Larsen says that ultimately, selling magic mushrooms for medicinal use is just the next step towards legalizing all drugs. There are trials in place to test LSD-assisted psychotherapy as well as ayahuasca-assisted therapy. And in Canada, there are currently ongoing trials to test MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to help treat PTSD.
“For me it’s always been about ending the whole war on drugs,” Larsen said.
Watch: Inside a cannabis production facility in Canada