A ‘magic’ mushroom dispensary in Florida tests the limits of drug law

  • A Florida cannabis dispensary has started selling “magic” mushrooms that are technically legal.
  • Chillum sells mushrooms containing Amanita muscaria, instead of the banned psilocybin.
  • Owner Carlos Hermida told Insider he’s prepared for a regulatory crackdown, but wants to expand.

A Florida cannabis dispensary has started selling psychedelic mushrooms as it pushes the legal limits.

Founded in Tampa in 2018 by Carlos Hermida, Chillum introduced “magic” mushrooms to his practice last month. But Hermida has taken another route to circumvent the strict laws, based on a curious legal precedent she hopes will catch on.

Hermida tends to refer to his mushrooms without calling them “magic” – a term usually associated with psilocybin, the psychedelic substance in traditional “magic” mushrooms.

Psilocybin is illegal in the US and is classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the Department of Justice, along with heroin and LSD, which it says have a “high potential for abuse and serve no legitimate medical purpose in the United States.”

Instead, Hermida says he found something of a loophole by selling Amanita muscaria mushrooms that don’t contain psilocybin, making them legal under federal law. The distinctive red and white mushroom is legal in every state except Louisiana, per the Third Wave.

Hermida argued that drugs are only banned “when they become a problem,” suggesting that Amanita muscaria’s lack of uptake shields it from regulation.

The mushroom is commonly used for its psychedelic properties, but it is also poisonous. A National Library of Medicine review found that one patient fell into a coma after accidentally ingesting the mushroom, while Hermida admits they could cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested raw.

Hermida says he cooks and treats the mushrooms, which he imports from Lithuania, to reduce their toxicity.

Chillum now sells the strain in capsules, gum and powders. There are also mycology grow kits that could theoretically allow a customer to make their own psilocybin, though Hermida asks buyers to sign a form saying they won’t.

Hermida fought to legalize medical marijuana in Florida and built his business on easing restrictions. He says he hasn’t seen a big jump in traffic since adding mushrooms to his product line, but there isn’t a typical buyer for the products either.

“I’ve cast old people and women, I’ve cast people in business suits, I’ve cast 20- to 23-year-olds wanting to have a good trip,” Hermida told Insider.

Chillum Mushroom and Cannabis Dispensary.

Ermida has taken to calling his shop the mushroom pharmacy.

Carlos Hermida

Hoping for progress

As recreational marijuana use becomes widely accessible in more states, advocates like Hermida are now pushing to make psychedelics more accessible, at least for medical purposes.

He says he is preparing for any lifting of the laws banning psilocybin, while he plans to set up more Chillum branches.

Hermida’s experiment in Chillum is the latest in a string of North American dispensaries pushing back against drug laws in hopes of reform.

A CBC report found that magic mushroom dispensaries were operating openly in Vancouver, Canada, as police chose not to crack down on daily use in favor of going after opioid traffickers.

But Hermida, who told Insider he has hired a lawyer and contacted law enforcement to warn them about the new products, is also bracing for a legislative backlash if his experiment proves popular — particularly in a state where recreational marijuana use it is still illegal.

“I could see some pushback, yes,” Ermida said. “But I’m an activist and that’s why I’m here. So if somebody pushes back, I’m going to go further, you know? And if they make it illegal, we’re going to stop selling and start advocating for legalization.”

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