Collage of Venice Sign with Various Mushrooms Scattered

You Can Buy “Legal Shrooms” On the Venice Beach Boardwalk

There’s a “mushroom dispensary” on Ocean Front Walk in Venice Beach. But do any of the products actually contain psilocybin?

DoubleBlind Mag

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Updated May 3, 2024

It was a rainy day in December 2023, and I was helping journalist Webb Wright investigate the underground mushroom market for Issue No. 11 of DoubleBlind Magazine. I had been on a rampage buying mushroom products from various sketchy sources in Los Angeles—illegal dispensaries, online delivery services, smoke shops, and a very trappy “sesh.” The goal? Getting these products lab-tested to see if they contained psilocybin.

Our research led me to the Venice Beach boardwalk (of course). If you’ve never been there, it’s typically a barrage of carnival chaos in your face. CD pushers trying to scam you out of $20, a man on rollerblades playing Jimi Hendrix riffs on an electric guitar, pickle ball heroes battling in the courts, sweaty bodybuilders lifting weights at Muscle Beach, choreographed dancers, hoards of stoned and drunk tourists, skateboarders, henna tattooers, loud music—it’s a lot. But it was desolate that day. An old couple wearing matching yellow raincoats walked past me hand-in-hand while a few unhoused locals sought shelter beneath an awning of a commercial property.

I glanced at my phone, unsure where this alleged mushroom spot was, or if I was supposed to “meet a guy” who would then take me to the spot. You know, kind of like the days of getting a medical marijuana card on the boardwalk, where a guy would shuttle you in an unmarked van to a nearby dispensary to make your first weed purchase after you got your doctor’s note (yes, it was as sketchy as it sounds). I walked a few blocks south of Rose Ave. on the boardwalk. Then a sign with a mushroom on it materialized. “SHROOMLAND LA, MAGIC MUSHROOMS SOLD HERE.”

READ: Psilocybin Mushrooms Have Been Growing on Earth Since Dinosaurs Went Extinct

Courtesy of Mary Carreon

I walked into Shroomland LA, and I felt like I had teleported back to a mid-aughts dispensary—but for mushrooms instead of weed. A security guard checked my ID to make sure I was of age, and a young woman greeted me from behind glass display cases stuffed with iridescent, trippy mylar bags, wrappers, and boxes of what looked like mushroom products.

“Hi, Welcome to Shroomland,” she said. “Can I help you find anything?”

I honestly didn’t know what to say. I was overwhelmed by all the questions flooding my brain.

“I don’t know yet,” I said back to her with the most obnoxious Cheshire grin.

“You look happy to be here,” she said.

I laughed awkwardly. “I am! This place is crazy.”

I squatted down and inspected the products through the display cases. Many popular brands lined the shelves: PolkaDot, NeauTropics, and Road Trip were among those I immediately recognized.

“How is this place allowed to operate so out in the open?” I asked.

She said it was because they’re selling “mushroom blends” and “mushroom extracts,” which are “perfectly legal” in California. She said things were changing on the mushroom front, and the laws are starting to reflect that.

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(Please note: Los Angeles has not passed a resolution to deprioritize mushrooms or plant medicine, nor has the state of California decriminalized the possession or use of mushrooms.)

“Are there psilocybin mushrooms in these products?” I asked.

“Mmm…It’s actually a mushroom extract,” she said in a wink-wink, don’t-blow-up-the-spot tone. 

I asked to see some of the products inside the display case. She was right. Most of them said “mushroom extract” on the back of the packaging. Others were labeled with “muscimol” or “Amanita Muscaria.” Webb told me he saw the same thing in New York City—chocolate bars, gummies, and other snacks marketed as magic mushrooms, but labeled with “mushroom blend” or “Amanita muscaria” or “muscimol” on the packaging. All of the bodega bros he spoke to told him the products were legal, too.

I asked the woman at Shroomland if Lion’s Mane was in the mushroom blend. She looked annoyed. “I don’t know.” 

I asked her if I’d trip from Amanita Muscaria. She said yes.

I asked her if she’d ever tripped from Amanitas. She nodded, still looking annoyed. I asked her if I could see the PolkaDot bars they had for sale. “Those are really good,” she said.

I bought a PolkaDot chocolate bar that prominently featured the words “Magic Blend” in large, shiny letters on the front. On the back, it listed “Amanita” along with several types of functional mushrooms. I also purchased Road Trip gummies that were said to contain Amanita Muscaria mushrooms. At this point, my spidey senses were telling me to get the fuck out of there. It was pouring rain outside, and I’d pretty much overstayed my welcome by asking so many questions. 

The next day, I sent all the mushroom products I acquired to get lab tested at Hyphae Labs. No one was surprised by the results when they came back. Many of the products—including the ones from Shroomland LA—did not contain psilocybin at all. The PolkaDot bar, labeled as containing a “Magic Blend” and “Amanita” came back showing the possible presence of psilocin. (You can see the lab results here. To be clear: We didn’t purchase all of the tested products from Shroomland LA.) 

What’s psilocin? It’s the compound responsible for eliciting the psychedelic experience. When we consume mushrooms, psilocybin converts into psilocin in the digestive tract, which then causes us to trip. Amanita Muscaria products should not contain psilocin—period. They’re a different species of mushrooms altogether with a distinct set of alkaloids, none of which are psilocin. 

Experts say the presence of only psilocin in a product suggests an entirely different issue—one that, when you zoom out, sheds light on what “mushroom extract” or “mushroom blend” means. “The presence of only Psilocin without Psilocybin heavily suggests 4-AcO-DMT as the reason,” a chemist at Hyphae Labs said. “The POLKADOT sample did show interference around the DMT range, but it was too similar to blank chocolate data to say it was adulterated definitively.”

I’m obviously not a scientist, but I don’t think Amanita chocolate should not come back as a “blank” product, either.

The Road Trip gummies also purchased from Shroomland unequivocally showed that they contained 4-AcO-DMT. “The [gummies are] clearly dosed with 4-AcO-DMT,” the chemist from Hyphae Labs said.

What is 4-AcO-DMT? It’s a synthetic compound that converts to psilocin in our bodies. So, 4-AcO-DMT will technically elicit a psychedelic experience, which is why people are putting it in gummies, chocolates, and mints and marketing these products as psychedelic mushrooms. 4-AcO is a research chemical that’s cheap to buy and make products with. According to sources, it is a lot more expensive to grow psilocybin mushrooms commercially and pursue a traditional product manufacturing process.

4-AcO is not explicitly listed in the Controlled Substances Act, either, unlike psilocybin, making it a loophole for manufacturers more or less. (4-AcO may trigger the Federal Analogue Act, however, so keep that in your back pocket if you happen to possess or sell this stuff). It’s similar to delta-8, delta-10, and the slew of alternative cannabinoids derived from hemp that have emerged in the grey market as workarounds to cannabis prohibition. 4-AcO-DMT essentially serves as a workaround for the illegality of psilocybin mushrooms. Keep in mind that 4-AcO is kind of like homemade bathtub gin: Anyone can make it if they have the inputs, and there are no safety measures preventing the dissemination of contaminated products. According to sources, many of the 4-AcO in the US come from China.

Many people who have tried 4-AcO say it lacks the Earthy characteristics of psilocybin-containing mushrooms. Some of Shroomland’s Yelp reviews back up this claim. 

“I got some Road Trip gummies from [Shroomland],” one person wrote. “I asked if it was real mushrooms, and they told me it was ‘mushroom extract.’ I bought some and had a couple. I later learned they weren’t psilocybin mushrooms but [labeled as] Amanita mushrooms. I did experience some psilocybin-like effects, such as more vibrant colors, but the feeling wasn’t the same. I had a very ‘strange’ feeling and a lot of nausea. I wouldn’t get them again.”

Another person said they vomited after eating products purchased from Shroomland, although it’s unclear which ones. “Fake. Stealing people’s money… stay away,” the reviewer wrote. “Wish I had looked at reviews before. Puked up whatever I ate since I read about harmful chemicals in their products.”

READ: You’re Not Tripping—These Mushrooms Really Glow in the Dark

Per the Yelp reviews, most people seem to understand that the products sold at Shroomland aren’t psilocybin mushrooms. “They sell fake shrooms. Don’t waste your money here. I don’t know what they put in their chocolates and gummies. But it’s definitely not shrooms.”

But some people say they don’t mind the 4-AcO-DMT experience. Assuming most of the products sold at Shroomland contain this substance (of course, we did not test every single product from this place, so we don’t know for sure!), some Yelp reviewers said their trippy experiences were alright, despite feeling “different” than a psilocybin mushroom trip. 

“I got some gummies from [Shroomland], and they actually weren’t bad,” one reviewer wrote. “They felt like shrooms to me. A little different, but I felt something for sure.”

I’m not writing this to say that 4-AcO-DMT or other synthetic drugs are bad. Lab-made substances are great—and if you like MDMA or LSD, then you like synthetics, too. I’m writing this because it’s important to know what you’re putting into your body and not get scammed into believing you’re consuming psilocybin mushrooms when you’re taking a different drug altogether.

Furthermore, all of this suggests that many of the easily accessible “mushroom” products—specifically gummies, mints, soft gels, and sometimes chocolates—don’t actually contain mushrooms, despite still eliciting a psychedelic experience. The proliferation of these products suggests that brands and manufacturers are capitalizing on the fact that 4-AcO-DMT is not federally illegal, and people want to get high and trip balls.

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So keep this in mind the next time you see packaging for a product that suggests it contains psilocybin mushrooms—at a gas station, bodega, smoke shop, and even on social media. Today, for instance, I was scrolling on Instagram and saw an advertisement by a brand called Tre House. It was a video of a man in a ridiculous Amanita Muscaria mushroom costume selling “magic gummies” that are allegedly “completely legal.” 

Funny enough, Tre House mushroom gummies are also sold at Shroomland LA.

About the Author

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DoubleBlind is a trusted resource for news, evidence-based education, and reporting on psychedelics. We work with leading medical professionals, scientific researchers, journalists, mycologists, indigenous stewards, and cultural pioneers. Read about our editorial policy and fact-checking process here.

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DoubleBlind Magazine does not encourage or condone any illegal activities, including but not limited to the use of illegal substances. We do not provide mental health, clinical, or medical services. We are not a substitute for medical, psychological, or psychiatric diagnosis, treatment, or advice. If you are in a crisis or if you or any other person may be in danger or experiencing a mental health emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency resources. If you are considering suicide, please call 988 to connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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