Are magic mushrooms legalization’s next big thing?

Another movement is growing in cities across North America to bring attention to the therapeutic properties of psilocybin

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Now that most of the world is aware that Canada has legalized the recreational use of cannabis, what’s next?

It’s a question that keeps coming up in activist circles.

On that front, another movement is growing in cities across North America to bring attention to psilocybin.

The therapeutic properties found in magic mushrooms have been receiving a lot of press. Denver and Oakland voted this summer to decriminalize their use for adults over 21.

Like cannabis, psilocybin has been found to have medicinal qualities. Anecdotal evidence and ongoing scientific research strongly suggests it can be an effective treatment for depression, anxiety, PTSD and other conditions.

Dana Larsen, a long-time activist at the forefront of the cannabis legalization movement, has now turned his sights to educating Canadians about the misunderstood substance.

This past summer, the Vancouver-based Larsen founded The Medicinal Mushroom Dispensary, an online distributor of psilocybin micro-doses.

“The idea behind the micro-dose is that you are getting some of the therapeutic benefits, but you’re not having this powerful entheogenic experience,” Larsen says. “So it’s much easier to work into your daily life.”

Larsen points out that there have been many studies on psilocybin showing its lasting mental health benefits.

“People who have taken a single dose of mushrooms will report it as one of the most significant experiences in their life,” he says. “Often it gives people insights into themselves and others.”

Larsen is no stranger to breaking the law in order to challenge the status quo. He’s a co-founder of the Vancouver Seed Bank and is a former vice-president of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries. He is encouraged about what he is seeing on the front lines of the mushroom movement.

“It’s breaking through to the mainstream. We’re seeing the first dispensaries opening up [and] there are court cases that are just starting, using some of the same legal arguments, and in some cases some of the same lawyers, [as cannabis].”

So far, authorities have left him alone. He speculates that Vancouver Police consider a medical micro-dose dispensary to be “very close to the bottom of their list” of enforcement priorities.

Health Canada, however, may be another story. If he were to have a problem, it would be with the federal agency in charge of health care regulations.

Those regulations include the sale of recreational and medical cannabis.

Larsen would like to see a similar form of legalization for mushrooms. He says that Canadians should be able to grow their own for medicine. 

However, he is wary of government efforts to legalize anything given the country’s experience with cannabis.

“What I would be concerned about is legal access in a highly restrictive way. That is what we’ve got with cannabis now.”

We are still far from decriminalizing or legalizing magic mushrooms. But Larsen is encouraging more Canadians to join in the discussion.

“I would be very pleased if other people started opening micro-dose dispensaries as well,” he says.

Anne Henry is a pseudonym.