A Glimpse at Canada's First Mushroom Dispensaries Vs. Oregon's Legal Mushroom Services
The First 'Magic Mushroom' dispensaries in Totonto and Ottowa, Canada
As different areas in the world begin to take brave steps to offering psilocybin mushrooms, commonly known as "magic mushrooms," (from species psilocybe cubensis) to their local communities, the emergence of a new industry is unfolding in a few different ways. Shroomyz, located in Toronto, Canada, portrays a movement of leaders offering mushroom sales directly to consumers, regardless of Canada's legalization status on the matter. According to Jordan Armstrong and other Canadian industry leaders, they operate in a "grey area," and are in many ways, protesting Canada's federal legalization status. Magic Mushrooms are still illegal under federal Canadian law.
Despite its legal status, customers may purchase extracts, dried mushrooms, capsules and other mushrooms products over the counter. But how is this possible?
"Although they can face charges, the Vancouver Police Department is more focused on organized crime and the trafficking of opioids." (CBC Vancouver )
Dispensary owners have even claimed to be granted business licenses by their local cities and as the movement of supplying local communities with magic mushrooms is underway, the federal law doesn't seem to be holding them back.
Vancouver Sees a Boom in Magic Mushroom 'Dispensaries'
Within this pseudo-decriminalized "grey zone," Canadian cultivators have a few things to say. CEO of TheraPsil, Spencer Hawkswell, offered a bit of perspective in their approach.
"The truth is that prohibition doesn't work and when people are forced underground, we don't know how safe the substances they're accessing are." (Spencer Hawkswell, CEO of TheraPsil)
The seemingly hands-off approach from Canadian regulation of the new emerging magic mushroom market can be directly contrasted to the rolling out of a new psilocybin program in Oregon...
Oregon's Measure 109: The Psilocybin Services Initiative
In 2020, Oregon unanimously passed Ballot Measure 109, the "Psilocybin Services Initiative," which would allow the state of Oregon to regulate, license and tax psilocybin services. (Psilocybin is the active compound found in 'magic mushrooms.') Unlike the approach of Canadian industry leaders, Oregon seeks to put into place a legalized framework for cultivators, facilitators, researchers and space-holders. Within this measure, applications for licensing is said to be made available for each of these positions, with other sub-divided licensing for practices such as extraction and "manufacturing." The regulation of this new service is being conducted by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), a state-run public health agency.
Understanding the Difference
Unlike Canadian "dispensaries," which operate from a seemingly laissez faire retail-oriented model, Oregon's Psilocybin Services Initiative will provide the legalization of a psilocybin service, which would grant participants to undergo a psilocybin therapy session with a trained facilitator in a licensed space using legally cultivated mushrooms or extracts. The participant must stay on the premises during the session and direct sales to consumers of other products, like "microdose" capsules are prohibited.
"The modality we're offering is psilocybin-assisted therapy, and that's important because the therapy component creates a context for the psilocybin experience." Tom Eckert, Chief Petitioner of Measure 109
The context of the therapeutic session is intended to offer a container of security and safety for the participant, which is intended to increase the likelihood of positive outcomes and a reduction of harm. While many feel this kind of regulation is necessary, there are concerns growing in the grassroots of cultivators and others seeking to participate in the emerging field.
Growing Concerns in Oregon
When asked about how legislation in Oregon is unfolding, we asked a few local mushroom cultivators their opinions:
"I worry about the current legal framework and how it will limit access to people who could use the medicine the most." (Anonymous Cultivator)
Many are lending their voices of growing concern for this type of rollout. Due to a highly regulated framework, economic barriers to entry, and it being limited to a therapeutic framework, there is fear that the cost may be too high for some participants. Many of the state ballot measure supporters, however, argued that it will require the additional diligence of community members to create affordable and accessible care and the question of accessibility has always been in the forefront of the discussion.
The concerns extend into the 'manufacturing' of psilocybin mushrooms as well...
"I understand the need for strict state policies regarding mushrooms, but there has to be assistance to manufacturers." (A Second Anonymous Cultivator)
Some feel that, similar to the cannabis industry, economic barriers such as licensing, facility standards and availability, as well as testing fees may prevent small scale cultivators from creating a viable business model. It is a growing fear that a few monopolies of well-funded organizations will only have the means to participate. In order to combat potential monopolization, state regulators are placing a cap on production with the intent that no one or a select few organizations become the industry giants.
Regardless of how this program unfolds, many agree that there will be no way of knowing until it begins. Furthermore, policy leaders in Oregon claim that this is only the first step. What emerges from here, and the foundation this may create for future opportunities both within the industry and for the care of our communities will reveal itself in time.
Whether it's mushroom dispensaries in Canada or psilocybin services in Oregon, it is apparent that the mushrooms are emerging into the forefront, and leaders are taking brave steps into the unknown...