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Psychedelic Store Busts Force Difficult Questions

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Psychedelic Store Busts Force Difficult Questions

Psychedelic decriminalization may be underway in some places, and the regulated legal use of psilocybin is coming soon to two states. But nowhere in the U.S. is it now legal to sell magic mushrooms. Yet sellers keep selling and buyers keep buying.

This reality got some media play last week when Portland’s Shroom House – promoted by a blaring billboard across the street, and which had customers reportedly lined up down the block – was raided by police, who made four arrests. According to Willamette Week this was the third notable mushroom bust in recent weeks, following the raid of Shroomyz in Toronto and an alleged raid of a shop selling mushrooms in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury neighborhood.

In New York, where this writer lives, there are easily dozens of unlicensed cannabis dispensaries and head shops where psilocybin chocolate bars are available for sale from behind the counter. The gray market is thriving, stocked with mind expanding gummies, chocolates and vapes galore. They come in colorful packaging that would fit well on Walmart shelves. After a few minutes of Googling, these products pop right up, along with the many retailers glad to offer them.

Supplying the psychedelic renaissance. The focus of psilocybin decrim has been on securing an individual’s right to grow mushrooms in the privacy of their own home, while the frameworks for legal use have limited their scope to the supply chain for licensed practitioners. But most people get their mind manifesting compounds through unregulated or illegal commerce. That’s 5.5 million customers a year, according to the most recent figures from 2019. Since then, that number has certainly risen.

Opinion about the recent busts among those in the psychedelic movement is split. Some feel that the gray market should go about its business quietly to avoid attention from law enforcement. That means no loud storefronts, let alone billboards. Their concern is that these flagrant violations of the law will undermine mainstream support for the pro-psychedelic bills that have managed to pass. The fear of many who voted against the decrim referendums is a Shroom House on every corner.

But others see these shops as the front line of a legalization effort that follows in cannabis’ footsteps and won’t be stopped. Their presence is itself a statement. In this scenario, the store owners are taking a big personal risk on behalf of the movement — even if they might also be in it for a quick profit. But if the intention is political, activist Mike Margolies suggested in a text, wouldn’t it be better to nurture a movement based on community healing circles rather than commercial dispensaries and employ strategic civil disobedience? Can psychedelics follow in the steps of other social movements?

Next? One thing is for sure: the black market is not going away, even as plans are being made for legal psychedelic production and distribution. Cannabis provides a cautionary tale. Dispensary weed is more expensive than product from the underground. And dispensary customers find their personal information entered into state databases. No surprise, then, that the cannabis black market continues to thrive. Is that also what’s in store for psychedelics?

Trending is a series of news analysis essays by the Lucid News editorial team that appear weekly in our newsletter. To read past newsletters, and to subscribe, click here.

Image: Courtesy of RecliningBeard.

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