A marijuana dispensary in a seedy strip mall on the Los Angeles County coast offers standard fare: pre-rolled joints, vape pens, an assortment of edibles and a select selection of smoking accessories.
But there's an extra class of merchandise that sets this shop on the county's suburban edge apart. A glass case displays "magic mushrooms" and various items that contain psilocybin, a compound that gives magic to those who eat it.
The connection remains illegal throughout the country.
as assessed by state legislaturesbillIn an effort to legalize several types of hallucinogens, including psilocybin, some businesses in the Los Angeles area are openly selling the powerful hallucinogen. While marijuana is legal nationwide, no city or county in Southern California has legalized magic mushrooms, following the example of Oakland, San Francisco and Santa Cruz.
However, there was a thriving market for mushrooms and other hallucinogens in Los Angeles. Entrepreneurs have long taken advantage of relative scarcity and high demand, selling them illegally in shiny storefronts and parking lots.
In the last six months alone, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has issued about 50 search warrants for dispensaries that sell magic mushrooms. At the same time, more and more people are backing up Legalize or decriminalize psilocybin and other hallucinogens among psychologists, researchers, veteran advocates and others who have witnessed improved mental health after psychedelic treatment.
As evidence of its therapeutic benefits mounts, states including Oregon and Colorado have legalized or decriminalized magic mushrooms, and some Sacramento Democrats are pushing for similar changes in California.
Senate Bill 58 is currently passing the Legislature,designed to eliminateCriminal penalties for possession, cultivation, and distribution of small amounts of several hallucinogenic substances, including psilocybin, ibogaine, and DMT.
Late. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced an earlier version of the bill last year; it was approved by the state senate, but he said it was "ruined" by the state legislature's public safety committeenever didto the town hall.
So Wiener and other supporters of the bill have been working with law enforcement stakeholders and others to address concerns, including removing some synthetic drugs, including LSD and MDMA, from the list of decriminalized drugs.
Wiener introduced an updated version of the legislation in December. It would not legalize psychedelics; there would still be fines for selling them. The bill is now being considered in the Senate. If approved there, it will go to parliament, and Wiener said there was "no guarantee of passage, but we have the means to pass" the new version of the legislation.
"The bill is very simple: It would decriminalize possession or use of certain psychedelics. It doesn't make sense to arrest people for possession of psychedelics," Wiener said. "These drugs are not addictive and they help many people with mental health and addiction problems."
At another coastal Los Angeles County marijuana dispensary a few miles from the first, customers handed their driver's licenses to a receptionist who asked them to flip their hats and put away their phones before taking a seat in a small waiting room.
When it was their turn to shop, they streamed through a locked door into another high-ceilinged room to check out the psychoactive goods.
Most are for the assortment of marijuana products and paraphernalia, but in one corner of the store, next to a jar of sharp green cannabis buds, is a larger glass jar filled with stubby mushrooms that have brown caps and the distinctive bluish tinge of psilocybin. Under the neon lights of the shelves, the liquid in clear plastic bottles is described by labels as "added mushrooms."
The gummies, which contain a psychedelic "mushroom mix," come in colorful, mushroom-shaped pouches and come in a variety of flavors, including Passion Tango Lemonade. Chocolate bars from two manufacturers - one of which is based in Auckland - contained pre-measured doses of mushrooms in each cube.
After several visits to two suburban pharmacies over the past month, The Times saw no sales of mushrooms or psilocybin-based products.
"I didn't realize they sold 'mushrooms,'" said a customer in the parking lot after buying a package of edibles earlier this month. "It's crazy. I might have to come back sometime."
But they "sold as soon as we got them. People really liked them," said one employee, both of whom declined to be named.
However, local dispensary owners and employees are routinely arrested for selling mushrooms, psilocybin products, and other illegal drugs.
april 2022, Los Angeles County Sheriff's DepartmenttweetsOver the past six months, it has made 277 arrests and seized "approximately 4,000 pounds of marijuana, 3,300 pounds of cannabis edibles, 29 pounds of mushrooms and 1,000 pounds of fentanyl" from "illegal marijuana dispensaries" in the out-of-state areas.
It was unclear whether the two pharmacies sold illegal drugs other than psilocybin and its byproducts. Neither location is clearly shown, nor are they mentioned when employees talk about their products.
Still, Lt. Jay Moss of the Sheriff's Department of Drug Enforcement said psychedelic mushrooms are often sold in dispensaries in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, where there are even marijuana-only stores.is illegal.
"They don't usually sell them publicly," he said. "They usually have a small amount—I'd say 2 to 10 pounds—of mushrooms, and you have to because they're not on display. They can be out of sight, like in the back."
Describing illegal dispensaries as "a really big problem," Moss said despite the sheriff's efforts, the illegal industry continues because it's so lucrative.
"We investigated these illegal dispensaries and issued search warrants to try to shut them down," he said. "The analogy is a bit like whack-a-mole: You turn them off and they turn on again somewhere else."
In February 2017, Jesse Gould found himself in a situation he never expected: deep in the remote wilderness of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, drinking ayahuasca tea for the fourth time in a week.
He wasn't there for the thrill or to see the snake, which is said to appear in the hallucinations of many who consume the psychedelic plant, which some indigenous peoples of South America consider a powerful shamanic drug.
Instead, he attended an ayahuasca retreat, hoping to unwind from the anxiety, PTSD and depression he experienced after three tours of duty in Afghanistan as an Army private.
Gould said the experience in Peru was challenging but transformative, and that he "comes out the other end reset in many ways and with a new understanding and perspective on the hardships I went through."
A growing body of research shows that therapy combined with hallucinogens can be a highly effective treatment option for a number of psychological diagnoses. However, some worry that making them more available could expose users to rare but sometimes serious potential harms of hallucinogens — including side effects like confusion and anxiety, and negative experiences like "bad trips" and panic attacks.
Gould, who lives in New York City, emphasized that psychedelics are "certainly not a panacea." But since he started using ayahuasca, he says, "things that would be a big anxiety trigger don't have the same effect anymore."
Ayahuasca had such a positive influence on his life that later that year he foundedHero Heart Project, a national nonprofit that connects veterans with PTSD to safe, psychedelic-based treatment and scholarships to help pay veterans' bills.
Today, Heroic Hearts is part of a coalition of groups advocating for the legalization of various natural hallucinogens, including ayahuasca, psilocybin, and mescaline—as well as other psychoactive substances with therapeutic potential, such as ketamine and MDMA.
In California, the group worked to build a coalition of veterans who support expanding access to such treatments and spoke with state lawmakers about SB 58. Gould's sense is that the pleas have been well received and that the bill has a good chance of passing. clear legislature this year.
"We just tell them, 'Hey, here's my story. This is why I'm in favor of changing the policy on psychedelics. This is why we think it's important for the future,'" he said. "We can address the fact that people are actually recovering from it."