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The 'shroom boom': How B.C. has adapted to the psilocybin movement

B.C.'s 'shroom boom' goes digital with websites that offer microdosing options to promote wellbeing
Earthy Microdose offers psilocybin products that are intended to boost productivity and motivation, as well as lower stress levels | Photo: 24K-Production/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

As the psilocybin movement in Canada continues to grow, B.C. residents can now order magic mushrooms online, delivered right to their door.

In what seems like a historical repeat of what happened with the movement to legalize cannabis, British Columbians are starting to become more aware of the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin, says Dana Larsen, owner of The Medicinal Mushroom Dispensary and activist for drug policy reform. 

He says that Vancouver will see more psilocybin dispensaries "popping up" and that there are already many mail-order websites. 

"I think [the mail order websites] are becoming less afraid and more blatant and advertising more directly and promoting more directly. I think these are all very good things," he said. 

An aspect of the so-called "shroom boom" is the rise of micro-dosing for mental health and healing. Larsen says he somewhat compares micro-dosing psilocybin to the effects of CBD in cannabis.

"They're both less psychoactive ways to get the medicinal benefits of the substances," he said. "You know, mushrooms or full psychedelic mushrooms can be very therapeutic and beneficial, but also very overwhelming and not something somebody wants to do a couple of times a week." 

Clinical trials and programs that utilize psychedelic-assisted therapy have been popping up all over B.C., with Numinus in Vancouver and Roots to Thrive at Vancouver Island University. However, more and more websites have been emerging, allowing British Columbians to utilize the benefits of micro-dosing at home. But these websites have a caveat; they are not legal. 

Larsen says that psilocybin is in a similar place to cannabis when considerations were first made to legalize the substance. 

"It was really the medical aspect that kind of opened the door in Canada with the courts, recognizing that some Canadians had a medical need for this substance," he said. 

But how is it that websites selling psilocybin have been allowed to operate? Larsen says that it comes down to these businesses not being worth the time and effort it takes to shut them down. 

"When cannabis dispensaries were widespread in Vancouver, the VPD would only really go after them if there were really strong community complaints or some kind of extenuating circumstances in some way," he said. "They said that it cost about $30,000 to launch a raid on a cannabis dispensary. And usually, we would reopen again the same day or the next day." 

Larsen says that another avenue authorities may take is to target the landlords renting to the businesses and threaten hefty fines. 

"I expect the city will go after mushroom dispensaries in the same kind of slow and methodical way that they went after cannabis dispensaries, which was to target them with bureaucracy," he said. 

However, it remains unclear how authorities will target mail order websites.  

Earthy Microdosing is one of these mail-order websites. According to Miles Sampras, the Customer Experience Manager, the company's goal is to provide natural alternatives to pharmaceuticals and a safe place to learn about the benefits of micro-dosing. 

"How we're really wanting to contribute is just to create a safe environment and a respectable, reputable environment, even down to the very products. We work with consultants around the community; we produce our products in an actual facility, a sanitized facility," Sampras said. 

According to Sampras, they have been operating since 2020. He said that part of the company's mission is to move away from the mistakes made by cannabis companies pre-legalization. 

Sampras said the company is "unregulated," but they have not had any run-ins with authorities. 

In a statement to Glacier Media, Vancouver Police Department said that psilocybin is a controlled substance under the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Unless someone is granted an exemption through Health Canada, it is illegal.  

"Anyone who traffics psilocybin, specifically those who contribute to violence and organized crime, could face arrest and charges," said VPD. 

Glacier Media reached out to BC RCMP for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication. 

Both Larsen and Sampras see psilocybin micro-dosing as an alternative to pharmaceuticals. 

"I think for a lot of people, they provide a more long-lasting kind of permanent benefit," Larsen said. 

Compared to antidepressants, which Larsen says have a dampening effect, psilocybin micro dosing offers a permanent psychological change that allows people to integrate the trauma of negative feelings they are experiencing and move past them. 

"Antidepressants tend to sort of numb down all of their emotions. And so the negative things and the anxiety and the fear and the triggering can be reduced, but so too can the joy and the happiness and the vitality," he said. 

Sampras says Earthy Microdosing has a saying similar to this: "Don't treat the symptoms, treat the problem." 

"We're not about just taking a product and masking that pain. It's to get you out of bed and hopefully open your mind to enjoy that nice cup of coffee in the morning or get your day started and develop your flow state to build a positive momentum for the future. And that's really what we're about, why we chose micro-dosing," said Sampras.