An Ontario-based corporation has opened a magic mushroom dispensary in Winnipeg, as the under-the-table psychedelics market continues to grow across the country.
Magic Mush opened its doors earlier this month along the main drag of Osborne Street with an eye-catching storefront spray-painted with colourful mushrooms.
The general manager, who wished to remain anonymous, says there are two other locations in Ottawa and Toronto, Ont.
The legal grounds for operation in this province, he says, are a bit hazy.
“It’s a grey area. It’s allowed to run in B.C. and Ontario, so we’re just coming to take a chance here and hopefully, we can take a stand and open it up here, as well,” he said.
Health Canada says psilocybin, the naturally occurring hallucinogenic compound found in magic mushrooms, is currently listed under Schedule III of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. It is a restricted drug, meaning it has no approved medical use and its sale, possession and production are forbidden unless authorized for scientific, medicinal or research purposes.
A licence or an exemption is required to conduct activities with controlled substances, the agency said.
“However, Health Canada licences do not allow controlled substances licence holders to sell magic mushrooms, psilocybin, or any other controlled substances to the general public,” Health Canada said in a statement.
“Storefronts or online vendors selling magic mushrooms or psilocybin are therefore operating illegally. Products sold by such vendors are unregulated and may be unsafe.”
Magic mushroom dispensaries are popping up in other cities across Canada. Customers range from those looking for treatment for depression or PTSD to people wanting to “micro-dose” a small amount of psilocybin.
Jamie Kagan, who is a lawyer and partner at Winnipeg’s Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP, is representing the business owners behind Magic Mush.
He said despite federal legislation banning the sale, Magic Mush is offering Winnipeggers the chance to safely access a potentially beneficial product, like in other large city centres.
“Here what we’re trying to do is a storefront presence to allow people an opportunity to make an informed decision,” he said.
“We tell them it’s a controlled substance. We tell them what the product is and by-in-large, our customer base is age 35 to 55. This isn’t a bunch of kids trying to get high.”
The Winnipeg Police Service told CTV News Winnipeg in an emailed statement the drug enforcement unit is aware of the storefront.
“Our officers work with the Federal Government and their Inspector in regards to dispensaries,” the statement said.
The city also said it is not its jurisdiction to scrutinize the type of products being sold at a retail location.
“Similar to cannabis retail locations in Winnipeg, the City does not provide any special permits or licensing to correspond with the type of retail. Any type of retail use is permitted in commercial zones,” a statement from the city read.
Kagan said the owners of Magic Mush are hopeful their experience in Manitoba will be similar to its other locations in Ontario.
“The police showed up. The police laid charges. The police went away. They opened the next day and they continued on,” he said, noting there are pending charges before the courts in Ottawa and London, Ont. which could be precedent setting.
Meantime, Magic Mush’s manager said he is prepared to be arrested, but he hopes it won’t come to that.
“Hopefully they get behind us and realize how good of an impact we’re making on the community. We’re on the same team.”
– With files from CTV’s Jon Hendricks and The Canadian Press