Yes, magic mushroom dispensaries are officially a thing in Vancouver. Take a walk downtown, and the massive yellow words “MUSHROOM DISPENSARY” might catch your eye; hardly bashful, to say the least. The storefront stocks different psilocybin mushroom products, from full-dose mushroom offerings (which require customers to fill out a medical form) to microdoses; whole fungi, and various infused goodies like psilocybin chocolate.
So far, Vancouver boasts at least four such dispensaries, owned by psilocybin entrepreneur Dana Larsen, who has a background in the cannabis movement. Much like the early days of the cannabis industry, the psilocybin dispensaries are proliferating in advance of—and, arguably, desire for—changing laws. They operate in a legal gray area, Larsen admits, given that psilocybin is federally prohibited in Canada under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Nevertheless, he runs the dispensaries out in the open; he doesn’t have a license to sell mushrooms (as no such thing exists), though he does have a cafe license. And so far, law enforcement has enabled him to operate smoothly; the Vancouver Police Department is more concerned with “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,” Const. Tania Visintin said in a statement.
Larsen has been in the gray market psilocybin industry for a few years now. In 2019, DoubleBlind reported on his dispensary model which included psilocybin deliveries to patients.
Generally speaking, Canada has been a pioneer in more liberal approaches to psilocybin policy. In fact, it’s legal even on a federal level for a select few terminal patients to have the right to try psilocybin as they near the end of their lives. And in Vancouver, specifically, the city council voted in 2020 to decriminalize all drugs.
Indeed, Larsen isn’t the only one selling shrooms out in the open. In the US, as well, shroom delivery is popular in decriminalized jurisdictions, while more and more underground and gray market operations, from pop-up booths at festivals to brick-and-mortar “churches” selling mushroom products are becoming more and more popular.
Meanwhile, at Larsen’s dispensaries in Vancouver, customers—who must pay cash only—can chose not only from a variety of mushroom strains which are showcased inside glass displays (like at a cannabis dispensary), but can peruse other entheogenic plant offerings, as well, including coca plants, kratom (in a vending machine), and a spring special on peyote and san pedro (“buy any peyote and get a free san pedro”). Additionally, the shop offers analogs like 4-ACO-DMT (“synthetic shrooms”), coca, herbs, jewelry, guide handouts to using microdelics and different shroom strains, and a cafe with drinks (including “microdose shooters”), which can be spiced with LSD, psilocybin, nootropics, and other types of medicinal mushrooms.
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A library and drug testing site sit across the street from one of Larson’s downtown locations; a safe injection site just down the road. All in all, it’s a glimpse of a post-prohibition world, in action.