The market for edible mushrooms proliferates underground

Magic mushrooms are making waves. You can stream Michael Pollan’s docuseries How to change your mind on Netflix, listen to quarterback Aaron Rodgers sing the praises of psychedelic mushrooms on a podcast and browse pages of cutting-edge research on the potential therapeutic applications of shrooms online.

However, while psychedelic mushrooms are in the collective consciousness, commercially they are still banned. You won’t find Golden Teachers-infused gummies at your neighborhood dispensary, nor do the most progressive doctors write prescriptions for psilocybin. The decriminalization of psychedelics in a number of cities means the laws have relaxed for personal use, but it does not make it legal to buy, sell, distribute, or advertise mushrooms. A chasm separates the mushroom hype and what you can actually get your hands on.

Beneath the surface, however, underground innovators are busy filling that void, making products and developing experiences for those who want to bend their minds with shrooms. Just as mushrooms expand mycelial networks beneath the surface, this grassroots movement also operates underground, making mushrooms available to people and providing a captivating insight into how mushroom cultivation is taking shape.


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How do you like your mushrooms? Shots of mushrooms, chocolate, kombucha and more

When it comes to mushroom-infused edibles, creativity is the order of the day. Innovative producers make magic kombucha, vegan mushroom chocolate drip, fruity mushroom shots, organic magic mushroom infused sencha tea, gummies, capsules, and more.

Will Padilla-Brown, citizen mycologist and founder of Mycosymbiotics and MycoFest, has seen mushroom products proliferate over the past year. “I’ve seen capsules, blister packs, freeze-dried shrooms, chocolate bars, softgels, infused honey, psychedelic truffles, teas, and psilocybin mixed with other functional mushrooms in capsules,” commented Padilla-Brown.

This influx of mushroom products has also led to innovations in extraction. A process called ultrasonic-assisted methanol extraction appears to yield the most stable psilocybin crystals, Padilla-Brown said. This extraction process works by puncturing the cell wall of mushrooms using high frequency sound waves, so that the active chemical compounds of the mushroom are quickly released into a surrounding liquid solvent (methanol).

Other operators opt for older and simpler methods. “I’ve seen very interesting single cold water extractions, but they’re not stable,” Padilla-Brown said. “You can leave fresh mushrooms in a jar in the fridge overnight and the water will be blue and infused the next day.”

But many edible mushrooms aren’t standardized and none are regulated, so it’s hard to know what you’re getting. In some cases, safety is questionable. “I’ve seen a lot of raw extracts in gummies that aren’t very reliable and a lot of mushroom chocolates that aren’t homogenized,” Padilla-Brown said.

Reddit threads about the merits of these underground products debate similar questions, with many wondering if chocolate mushroom bars even contain psilocybin or are instead infused with a synthetic substitute, 4-AcO-DMT (psilacetin).


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How to Buy Mushroom Edibles

In general, shoppers often find illicit market mushroom businesses on social media and Reddit forums. Anonymous accounts and delivery services hand out mushroom-infused treats with amusing brand names and official-looking labels, trying to lend an air of legality to products that are anything but.

Some bold operators have moved into physical storefronts, like The Medicinal Mushroom Dispensary, which shares space with the Coca Leaf Cafe in Vancouver, Canada. Despite warnings from city officials, the dispensary remains resolutely open and it’s not the only place you can buy shrooms in town.

Until recently, Mushroom Cuts, a hair salon, boasted a showroom of local mushroom products in its English Bay location. The showroom is now closed, but online sales have kicked off and the social enterprise appears to be in full swing, with orders pouring in seven days a week.

Psilocybin retreats must run downstairs

Beyond buying your own magic booch, gummies, and blister packs of pills, psilocybin retreats and gatherings are also quietly gaining momentum. Those who organize such encounters often also operate under the radar.

“You have to be careful: you can’t charge for the experiments; you can’t promote,” said Craig Gross, founder of Creating Fun and Rainbow Ridge. “There are ways around that if you’re not doing it for profit. I am not in any product related offers. I gave people experiences and provided space for it.

During the pandemic, Gross ran a psilocybin retreat center called Rainbow Ridge in Santa Cruz, Calif., offering free psilocybin immersion experiences to a handful of people at a time. About 300 people attended Gross’ retreats at Rainbow Ridge while he was operating.

According to Gross, Rainbow Ridge was one of many informal retreats held across the United States. Organizers rent Airbnbs in cities where drug use has been decriminalized, then connect with attendees through more secure private networks like Signal or Telegram. There is no need to advertise, as word of mouth does the heavy lifting.

Psilocybin as a religious sacrament

Another common way people can experience psilocybin is at spiritual gatherings where mushrooms are treated as a religious sacrament. The Sacred Tribe in Denver, Colorado, and Zide Door in East Oakland, California, both incorporate magic mushrooms into their spiritual teachings and practices.

Members of these entheogenic organizations can travel together and, in the case of The Sacred Tribe, explore the overlapping tenets of psychedelia and Judaism. In the Sacred Tribe, members can access the psilocybin sacraments in exchange for a donation.

However, despite both spiritual organizations operating in decriminalization cities, both have also encountered serious resistance from local law enforcement authorities. Zide Door was raided and Rabbi Ben Gorelick, leader of the Holy Tribe, is currently facing drug trafficking charges.

Facilitating experiences and gatherings involving psilocybin can be difficult, even in places where psilocybin has been decriminalized, and even if no money is exchanged hands.


America’s only psychedelic mushroom shop is a church in Oakland. We observed the sacrament

Mushroom festivals

Churches aren’t the only outlet for psilocybin-friendly gatherings. Padilla-Brown established the MycoSymbiotics Mushroom and Arts Festival in 2015, affectionately known as MycoFest, which has since grown into an annual get-together for all things mushrooms, magic and more.

“I saw MycoFest as a perfect opportunity to come together and discuss in person topics that many of us only talked about online, and also give my friends the opportunity to have an audience and sell their products,” Padilla-Brown said.

However, it’s not just about talking and selling shrooms. The event has a strong focus on ecological literacy, educating people on how to interact with and protect the environments in which mushrooms grow. “We take groups on hikes in the forest to find the different mushrooms that grow,” Padilla-Brown explained.

Mycofest is also filled with presentations and workshops throughout the day focusing on health and wellness. “Over the years we’ve had classes on identifying psychedelic safety in the home setting, psychedelic mushrooms, psychedelic mushroom ecology, and decriminalization education,” Padilla-Brown said.

Psychedelic decriminalization continues to gain momentum

In some ways, the underground mushroom market is reminiscent of the early days of cannabis before the green rush, characterized by those who were passionate about psychedelic mushrooms and eager to help it cross the line towards legalization. Many mushroom companies are run by legacy operators who want to get in on the action before the big companies take over.

In one such show of support, Gross recently co-founded an initiative called Drug Camp, where supporters can purchase a mushroom-themed t-shirt for cities that have decriminalized psilocybin and other psychedelics. Some proceeds go to Decriminalize Nature, an organization that aims to legalize entheogens or psychedelic plants. Those who buy a T-shirt also have access to a private discussion group with information on psychedelic events.

“In the United States, most businesses that start locally happen around Denver, Oakland, Arcata, DC, and the state of Oregon because they have the best decriminalization facilities that force the police to look away,” Padilla-Marron said.

With cities across the United States decriminalized or in the process of doing so, Gross decided the time was right to start a movement. “There are over 130 cities that are decriminalizing, so the idea was just to follow this movement, the movement of saying, ‘We are changing history here.’ A t-shirt and some info on it might let people know what’s to come.

Emma Stone bio image

Emma Stone

Emma Stone is a New Zealand-based journalist specializing in cannabis, health and wellness. She has a doctorate. in sociology and has worked as a researcher and lecturer, but loves being a writer above all else. She would happily spend her days writing, reading, walking outside, eating and swimming.

See articles by Emma Stone

#market #edible #mushrooms #proliferates #underground

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