Are Magic Mushroom Shops Next?

There’s no hiding what’s on sale inside the Shroomyz Dispensary in downtown Toronto. A giant rainbow mushroom covers the windows, with a sign underneath inviting customers to “step into a new reality”.

The store is one of three the company has in Ontario and plans to expand further.

“We are running a medical protest,” James, who gave his name only because what he and others who work at Shroomyz are doing is illegal, told CTV National News.

“We’re here to make it easier for the public to access it than having to go to dealers on the street,” James said. “It’s a safer alternative.”

Magic mushroom dispensing facilities are springing up in cities across Canada, with clients ranging from those looking to treat depression or PTSD to those looking to “take small doses” of small amounts of psilocybin , the hallucinogenic compound in magic mushrooms.

Shroomyz locations were raided by Toronto police on November 13, 2022, months after opening. Two men were arrested and charged with drug and trafficking charges. The store reopened two days later.

“We all know the risk here,” James said. “All are fighting for justice, to legitimize it.”

While the situation is in some ways reminiscent of when cannabis retailers set up shop before cannabis was legalized in 2018, Health Canada says there are no plans to legalize or legalize it. chemical psilocybin products.

“Health Canada is aware of growing concern over the potential therapeutic uses of psilocybin,” the federal agency wrote in a statement, adding that “there is no therapeutic product available.” approved to contain magic mushrooms or psilocybin in Canada or elsewhere.”

Although the legal and regulatory changes are not planned, there seems to be little effort to prevent people from opening pharmacies and selling products containing psilocybin.

It’s an uncomfortable situation for Thomas Hartle, who has Stage 4, terminal cancer. In 2020, the Saskatoon man became the first person in Canada to legally access psilocybin-assisted therapy to help with his end-of-life anxiety.

“I really don’t know when that will come to me,” Hartle told CTV National News. “And there’s really nothing I can do about it. The looming nature of that worries me really badly, as you can imagine.

Hartle says traditional medications have helped eliminate the “peaks” of his anxiety, but they have also paralyzed him from other emotions like joy and love, things he wants to experience with his family as much as possible. the more the better. For him, psilocybin therapy helped reduce his anxiety without affecting other emotions.

But his legal immunity to psilocybin expired more than a year ago, and Health Canada has not responded to his renewal application. While waiting for a legal way to obtain psilocybin, he is watching an illegal market develop.

“It seems like a push in the wrong direction to encourage Canadians to do something illegal,” he said.

Hartle and six others are taking the federal government to court, challenging the constitutionality of psilocybin’s current controlled substance status, calling it a barrier to healthcare. Hartle says he was able to approach physician-assisted death in a matter of weeks, but was prevented from accessing a drug that could improve the life he wanted to continue living.

“It took me 400 or 500 days trying to get access to a therapy that would improve my quality of life,” he says.

Health Canada says the best way to access psilocybin is through clinical trials, some of which are underway. The Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto has just begun a three-year clinical trial to see if psilocybin could be an effective treatment for mental health issues like depression. without causing hallucinogenic effects or not.

While other studies have shown some promising results, CAMH clinical scientist and psychiatrist, Dr Ishrat Husain, says more “solid science” is needed to determine levels safety of psilocybin.

“I am concerned about the increased exposure to psilocybin and other hallucinogens,” Dr. Husain told CTV National News. “We don’t know for whom it is useful, for whom it is safe to use it. And you often don’t know what you’re getting when you get it from these dispensaries.”

Some argue that legalizing psilocybin will lead to more regulation and safer drug delivery, pointing to marijuana legalization as a route. But Dr. Husain says there are key differences, particularly due to the hallucinogenic nature of psilocybin.

“I don’t see it becoming a product suitable for personal consumption,” he said. “My view is hopefully it will be a treatment option as we definitely need more, but it will probably be delivered to places like CAMH with the proper support.”

But with thousands of Canadians experimenting with “small doses,” the stores and websites that supply them with magic mushrooms have no plans to stop.

“We are trying to provide accessibility to those who need it,” James said.

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