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With Magic Mushrooms, Small Businesses Lead, Hoping Laws Will Follow

An underground economy is thriving as laws around the illegal fungi loosen. Here’s how businesses are rushing to take advantage of the changing paradigms on psilocybin.

Published by Bloomberg

It’s hard to miss the bright green banner draped over Vancouver’s Coca Leaf Café that declares: MUSHROOM DISPENSARY.

 

Inside, aging hippies, solitary businessmen, and streetwear-clad youth peruse glass cases filled with a dozen strains of “magic” mushrooms with names such as Penis Envy and Jedi Mind Trick. Also on the menu at the little shop in the city’s rapidly gentrifying Chinatown are mushroom chocolates and microdosing capsules, as well as more advanced offerings including LSD tinctures and vape cartridges containing DMT (the active ingredient in ayahuasca). To make a purchase, flash an ID, sign a health form, buy a product, and—if inclined—leave a Google review.

Magic mushrooms are moving from the margins to the mainstream. In the past two years, at least six ’shroom dispensaries have opened in Vancouver, which has become a key testing ground for broader policy reform and where hard drugs will soon be decriminalized. Similar—albeit more discreet—shops are opening in US cities where mushrooms have been decriminalized, such as Oakland, Calif., and Portland, Ore.

Commercial sales are still illegal in the US and Canada, but these black-market businesses operate through loopholes including religious freedom exemptions, gifting programs, and pop-up events. Digital sellers proliferate on social media, where anonymous accounts openly hawk heavily branded wares.

“Drug dealers always win,” declares Coca Leaf Café owner Dana Larsen, a cannabis activist who says dispensaries such as his are key to advancing mushroom legalization by normalizing recreational use; the dispensary had a court date over licensing issues in June. “We’re putting pressure on the legal system to improve.”