Now that weed is legal, longtime cannabis activist Dana Larsen has his sights set on destigmatizing the consumption of psychedelic mushrooms.
Larsen is launching The Mushroom Dispensary out of Vancouver, a mail order dispensary through which people with medical conditions that can be treated by psilocybin mushrooms can access microdoses of the drug. Dried psilocybin mushrooms are illegal to possess or sell in Canada. Both Denver and Oakland recently voted to decriminalize mushrooms.
“These are useful medical products that should be available,” Larsen said, noting that while there remains work to be done on the weed regulation front, it’s a good time to start looking at other substances.
In larger doses, typically one to three grams, mushrooms can cause strong hallucinations. Larsen said his dispensary, which will eventually have a storefront location, is not for people looking to trip out. It’s meant for those who have conditions like ADHD, PTSD, sleeping disorders, cluster headaches, as well as anxiety related to more serious conditions such as HIV and cancer. Prospective members must show a referral for mushrooms as a treatment from a doctor, naturopath, or traditional Chinese medicine practitioner or some form of documentation confirming a diagnosis.
Doses will come in pill form and range from 25 to 100 mg, a fraction of a recreational dose, with prices ranging from $2.50 to $8 per dose. (That’s about 8-10 times the street price of mushrooms.) Larsen said they will come from the same supplier and will be a single strain—Golden Teacher.
Larsen said while he’s not the first person to provide such a service, he is the most open about it.
“I think that the model that we used and the tactics we used to legalize cannabis… civil disobedience, medical dispensaries, shifting the focus on the substance away from sort of seeing it as a hedonistic party substance more to being seen as a therapeutic, beneficial medicine,” he said.
Larsen opened The Medical Cannabis Dispensary in 2008, which only recently stopped selling cannabis.
He said he doesn’t expect his customers to incur any risks, legally or in terms of consuming the mushrooms.
“The worst case scenario is they don’t help,” he said.
In a statement to VICE, Vancouver police spokesman Steve Addison said the force is aware of the dispensary and will be looking into it.
“We continue to focus our enforcement energy towards combating organized and sophisticated criminals who profit from the production and distribution of harmful drugs, such and fentanyl and other opioids,” Addison said.
Vancouver police adopted a similar policy with the city’s many grey market weed dispensaries, prior to legalization.
Down the line, Larsen said he hopes to have a venue where people can come and have guided psychedelic mushrooms trips.
Scott Bernstein, director of policy for the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, said in general he thinks Larsen’s dispensary is a good idea.
He said mushrooms microdosing works by using doses so small that a person may not cognitively feel like they’ve taken a substance, but “it’s working inside your brain to release serotonin and working to release neural pathways.”
Potential benefits include enhancing creative thinking and reducing anxiety and depression.
He said there’s no conclusive evidence that says microdosing works but that it’s just now being studied more—and anecdotal reports, though they have limitations, are positive.
Both Larsen and Bernstein said it would be most effective to take a couple of microdoses a week so as not to build up a tolerance.
Larsen said he hopes to see a proliferation of similar mushrooms dispensaries in a year from now.
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