People have been selling magic mushrooms online for decades now.
What’s so different about today’s wave of magic mushroom storefronts, then?
They’re not hiding in the shadows anymore. And that’s true of both digital storefronts and physical ones.
Keep reading to learn how a few forward-looking pioneers are revitalizing the way Canadians view the intersection of medicine, mushrooms, and mental health.
- Dana Larsen: A Psychedelic Hero’s Journey?
- Are Psychedelics Following Cannabis’s Path?
- Psilocybin Healing Centers?
- Mushrooms and The Law: Muddy Waters
- Disobey The Law, Obey The Shroom
- Psilocybin Stores — Everywhere!
- The Future: Awareness and Acceptance
Dana Larsen: A Psychedelic Hero’s Journey?
“I’m definitely not the first person to sell mushrooms online. But I might be the first to put my name, face, and reputation on the line for it.”
– Dana Larsen
Dana Larsen is the first person to admit that he’s not the first magic mushroom salesman out there. Larsen ended up in the psychedelic space almost serendipitously.
Like many people who eventually come to advocate for psychedelics, Dana started out in cannabis. He explains that it was always about more than a plant — even a transcendent one. “It’s always been a broader push than just cannabis,” he attests.
After thirty years in the cannabis industry, it was time for a change. Dana founded an online mushroom dispensary that ships microdosed psilocybin to patients throughout Canada.
The business isn’t 100% legal . . . but that hasn’t stopped Dana or his patients yet. Law enforcement hasn’t really gotten involved — they have bigger things to worry about, like the opioid and fentanyl epidemics. And legal issues wouldn’t necessarily be a problem. If Larsen’s team was persecuted, he’d simply challenge the ruling in hopes of setting a better precedent for future pioneers to enjoy!
As we stated above, Larsen got his start in pot. He’s been a dispensary owner, legal activist, and cannabis mag editor. His legalization efforts catalyzed a political campaign, too. In 2000 Larsen ran for federal office; since then he’s helped found the BC Marijuana Party. Today he advocates for a progressive approach to drug policies.
Most politicians don’t break the law in hopes of changing it, you might be thinking. And you’d be right — except for the fact that Dana isn’t most politicians. His cannabis activism has shown him that civil disobedience can (and often does!) trump legislative action.
Are Psychedelics Following Cannabis’s Path?
Speaking of cannabis’s legal status, not many plants/drugs/activities stayed in a legal quandary for as long as cannabis did. The plant was made federally legal in 2018, but big cities like Vancouver and Toronto had cannabis dispensaries for years before that. Back then law enforcement chose to look the other way.
Larsen is hoping they’ll do the very same thing with psilocybin. So far so good!
Patients can subscribe to Dana’s microdose service for a one-time fee of $10 CAD. $10 gets them a personal dosage recommendation, an initial consultation, and more. All patients need to do is provide proof of an ailment worthy of psilocybin use. Insurance forms, Dr. recommendations, and prescription bottles are all acceptable. Some of the most common patient ailments include:
- Cancer symptoms
Larsen’s online mushroom service is microdose-only. Patients receive capsules filled with 25-100mg of Golden Teacher mushrooms. That’s not even 10% of what you’d need to enjoy a full-fledged trip!
Psilocybin Healing Centers?
With all that pioneering spirit, we can’t help but wonder . . . what’s next in the books for Larsen? While there is certainly a time, place, and mental health space for microdosing psilocybin, the benefits of a ‘heroic dose’ in the proper ‘set and setting are undeniably crucial to its healing capacity.
With clinical trials in full swing and centuries of documented psychological breakthroughs achieved at a high dose — or the “ego dissolution” stage of a shroom trip — patiently waiting for scientific recognition, Larsen plans to support the cause by taking advantage of Canada’s ‘lax law enforcement and following the model set by cannabis.
What’s that model? Put simply, it’s to prove the therapeutic use of a plant before bucking its legality in the courtroom. In fact, a push for decriminalization and subsequent legalization of entheogens was underway well before weed consumption was legalized in Canada.
How did the magic happen? Liberal Member of Parliament Nathaniel Erskine-Smith passionately supported this cause, and the ruling Liberal Party amended its platform by April 2018 using Portugal as a template. To start, they aim to decriminalize the possession of all drugs!
Although it’s still in its planning stages, Larsen’s mission aims to spark change in our public perception — and ultimately laws — around the medicinal use of psychedelic mushrooms in Canada. So, what’s the mission? To offer an optimal place for people to ‘trip’ on shrooms!
Larsen hopes to not only provide a safe space for patients whose conditions necessitate consuming higher doses of psilocybin in the coming months but to synergize his efforts with those of researchers, activists, and politicians. That way, medical and legal authorities’ views on shrooms can shift exponentially faster and radical change can occur.
Calling non-intoxicating microdoses the “CBD of entheogens” is also one of Larsen’s many tactics to separate psilocybin’s recreational stereotypes from its serious potential as a medicinal compound. At a low dose, one can work and play without mind-altering effects getting in the way!
Once microdosing is culturally acceptable — even to the authorities — and many people have safely tripped into healing at his space, it should be a whole lot easier to cultivate a paradigm that sprouts legalization.
IOW: Once the mycelium has been laid, a mushroom is bound to pop out!
Mushrooms and The Law: Muddy Waters
Technically, taking psilocybin is still against the law in Canada — even if it’s for therapeutic purposes. We can thank the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for that! However, exceptions can still be made — albeit sparingly — under a circumstantial provision called Section 56.
As we speak, a small coalition of therapists is attempting to acquire this exemption. Even if their nonprofit — called TheraPsil — does make it through the arduous approval process unscathed, its services will continually be limited to those who have tried more ‘mainstream’ treatment options and are still experiencing severe psychological distress.
While this does present hope for people suffering from PTSD or near-death anxiety, there are still many milestones that must be achieved before psilocybin is available for lesser mental ailments — let alone the public. Lead Therapist Bruce Tobin sees Phase 3 clinical trials as the key, though these are just beginning and could take many years to complete.
Like others, he is willing to go to war in court if all else fails — but he sees it as a last-ditch effort. It seems he’s more of a micro-doser than heroic!
Disobey The Law, Obey The Shroom
Some people ask for permission. Others ask for forgiveness. And a strong few? They do the crime to prove why they shouldn’t do time.
Swing the focus back to Dana Larsen (whose services aren’t exempt under Section 56) and we see a well-informed, convincing argument against a legal approach and an ardent resolve to accomplish the latter.
Dana does acknowledge that having a few politicians on board is a major step towards progress. They can use their vote to help change the law. Concerning layfolk, though, he’s stated: “ I saw most of our success come from opening [cannabis] dispensaries in violation of the law and forcing the government’s hand toward decisions in court battles.”
Canada’s path toward pot legality strongly supports this assumption:
- The R. V. Parker Case: In 2000, a patient with epilepsy provided evidence of cannabis’ medicinal value in the courtroom, challenging a long-standing federal ban on its possession and setting a change of paradigm in motion throughout Canada.
- The Allard Medical Marijuana Case: The last landmark court case around a ban on growing cannabis for medical use took place in 2016. Justice Michael Phelan ruled that the ban was a violation of Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it denied access to medicine for those with conditions which cannabis could provide relief for.
- The Section 7 Charter Rights to “Life, Liberty, and Security”: Criminal Defense Attorney John Conroy, who took part in the previously-stated case, explained that the ruling showed that the ban was imposed indiscriminately by the CDSA, as “the purpose of the CDSA is to protect people’s health, so when a doctor comes along and approves you for a particular drug [on the banned list] that becomes inconsistent with the purposes of the Act.”
Conroy thinks that psilocybin is bound to follow suit! That is if businesses like Larsen’s continue to operate in collaboration with medical professionals. He does confess, though: “I haven’t had a psilocybin case for an awfully long time.” More on why that could be later!
So, what if Larsen gets caught? Conroy says it could do some legal good. If he presents evidence that he only supplied it to those who’ve gained medical approval, he could bring about a second constitutional case concerning Section 7 Charter Rights. A psilocybin-centric Allard, per se.
Larsen doesn’t plan to get arrested, though he does appear to have a winning lottery ticket in either hand. He anticipates that — if a legal battle does break out — it will come from a patient who has faith they can win their case with the backing of a pro-psilocybin medical doctor.
Ironically, the Canadian Feds don’t seem to care about catching citizens in possession of psychoactive ‘shrooms. Conroy suspects that the opioid crisis has overshadowed mundane trip-shaming, making it a low-priority task in the eyes of the law. When a news outlet reached out to them, they were shrugged off and referred to the Vancouver Police Department.
Despite the VPD claiming that they already knew about it and were taking some sort of action, their Media Relations Officer recently stated: “I am not aware of any enforcement action taken at this point.”
Larsen’s biz is a nationwide hit, so it appears psilo-nauts are in the clear.
Psilocybin Stores — Everywhere!
Magic mushrooms are popping up all over Vancouver, attesting to this ‘turn the other cheek’ attitude. Mimicking the city’s first wave of unlicensed cannabis cafes, at least four new dispensaries have emerged touting the therapeutic benefits of the psychedelic compound found in psilocybe mushrooms. This includes one on the Downtown Eastside, another on Commercial Drive, and two in Downtown Vancouver.
In one spot in particular, picking up a pack of this trippy entheogen can be as easy as ordering a cup of coffee!
The Medicinal Mushroom Dispensary
Located on the edge of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside area, our featured activist Dana Larsen’s physical dispensary lives within Coca Leaf Cafe. It offers psilocybin mushroom products in both micro-doses and — for those with a fitting diagnosis — higher, more hallucinogenic doses.
Since, according to the city’s Chief License Inspector Sarah Hicks,
“A license cannot be issued — any location in Vancouver offering these products for sale is subject to enforcement by the City, which may include orders, fines and/or prosecution,” Larsen’s shop is attached to a cafe licensed to sell an array of beverages containing coca leaves.
After his heavy involvement in the cannabis movement, Larsen is not afraid to shout proudly about his products. Seeing each legalization as a step in the same overarching process, he is confident in the service he is offering to the city and its ability to spark transformation and reform.
He stated, “We kind of operate in this grey area and I hope to change that grey area to lighter and lighter shades of grey, and hopefully in the next few years, we see a change in the laws around psilocybin mushrooms.”
First cannabis, now psilocybin. What will his next cafe edition provide?
In the same spirit as The Medical Mushroom Dispensary, Shroomyz is serious about supplying psilocybin to the masses — and not afraid to show it. So far, they have opened three locations in Ontario. Their Vancouver shop sports a massive, colorful mushroom window cover and a sign that beckons customers to come in and “walk into a new reality.”
They are operating in the name of safety, with a highly involved interviewee named James claiming, “We are here to give the public easier access than having to go to street dealers. It’s a safer alternative.”
After one of their locations was raided by Toronto police in November 2022, two men were arrested and charged with serious drug-related offenses. The store re-opened two days later. Talk about commitment!
TheraPsil’s Psilocybin Coalition
As mentioned earlier, nonprofits like TheraPsil are on a mission to help Canadians with serious medical problems obtain psilocybin through a federal exemption. So far, they’ve helped 80 people do just that!
Since it’s such a complicated process, CEO Spencer Hawkswell says it’s completely understandable that people are seeking it elsewhere. For those with certain conditions, though, his coalition can be a lifesaver.
“The demand for psilocybin is real,” he explained. “The number of Canadians out there who are seeing this research, who are fed up with the treatment options that aren’t working and realize they don’t have alternatives, they’re looking for support.” And find support they will!
Help From a Health Minister
On the other side of the federal exemption equation, Former Health Minister and Const. Tania Visintin has started using her authority to grant them under Section 56 — specifically to those who are terminally ill or are experiencing severe, ongoing treatment-resistant depression.
In a statement, she said, “[We] continue to target violent and organized criminals who produce and traffic harmful opioids, which fuel gang violence and contribute to the ongoing health crisis of illicit drug deaths.” She is both a messenger to the masses and a lifeline to those who could receive the most healing from consuming psilocybin safely.
Sure, the medicinal compound found in ‘magic mushrooms’ has been illegal since 1975 . . . and there are also currently no federal, provincial, or municipal regulations that allow for its recreational sale. Surely, though, there will be soon. These hallucinogenic heroes are ahead of the curve!
The Future: Awareness and Acceptance
Shroom shops are cropping up all across Canada! Selling anything from microdosing products to those made to invoke a “mystical experience”, these advocates — along with many others — are putting it all on the line so that access to psilocybin can one day be “here to stay” in Canada.
With all of this exciting momentum, it’s easy to want to hop on the train! If you’re interested in having a psychedelic experience, but don’t know where to start, we recommend checking out these awesome resources:
With the confidence of cannabis legalization at our backs, support from politicians and medical professionals at our core, and brave action from advocates of plant medicine at the forefront, we are bound to succeed.
Until then, be safe . . . and let’s get ‘shrooming!