Dana Larsen is on a mission to provide Metro Vancouverites with a safe supply of illicit substances -- but he's doing it in phases.
"I have not taken all the mushrooms on the menu," he notes, describing how he has a dozen "shroom" strains for sale at his new shop.
"I do microdose. I take LSD sometimes; I take mushrooms sometimes...I try to sample what I can but I have not tried every product in the store."
While he hopes to open a brick-and-mortar compassion club for heroin users in the future, the advocate currently offers a host of psychedelic drugs and what he describes as "plant-based medicine."
The new shop opened at 247 W Broadway on Monday, Feb. 13, and offers a range of illegal products. Psilocybin mushrooms, more commonly referred to as "magic mushrooms," are some of the most popular items for sale. Each one of them offers a distinct experience, ranging from a more relaxing sensation to a profoundly psychedelic journey, Larsen tells V.I.A.
The hallucinogenic fungi can also be micro-dosed for more manageable "trips," he says.
When people buy from mushroom dispensaries, they are made aware of the dose they are taking. They also know that they are getting a "safe supply" that has been tested rather than purchasing their drugs on the street, according to Larsen.
The Vancouver advocate founded a community drug-testing service called Get Your Drugs Tested in 2019, which offers a place for drug users to get their substances checked for harmful contaminants, seven days a week, free of charge.
"We've tested over 40,000 substances now," he remarks, adding that all of the results are on a searchable database on the website. "We're doing like two-thirds of all the drug testing in the province from our one location at 880 East Hastings."
Magic mushrooms Vancouver store opens on Broadway
Customers can also purchase LSD in a diluted liquid form where they can mirco-dose it or "take it for psychedelic purposes." An LSD trip lasts significantly longer than an average magic mushroom trip, notes Larsen, with the effects of the former lasting upwards of 10 hours. Both substances are included under Schedule III of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act of the Criminal Code.
Larsen also sells DMT and Peyote, which are derived from plants with psychoactive qualities, as well as coca leaf tea -- an herbal tea that is derived from the same plant that cocaine comes from.
Kratom, another item on the menu, comes from a tree in southeast Asia and is used as a substitute for street opiates and fentanyl. While it is not in the controlled substances act, it is not to be sold for "human consumption."
While many advocates have touted the therapeutic benefits of using magic mushrooms, Health Canada cautions that they can cause people to have intense fear and paranoia, possibly resulting in "bad trips" or "flashbacks. These situations may "lead to risk-taking behaviour, which may then lead to traumatic injuries or even death."
But Larsen believs the benefits of legalizing substances like Psilocybin far outweigh the cost of lives lost and people putting themselves in harm's way to access them.
"I hope that this is the beginning of more stores like this in Vancouver," he says. "This is part of an effort to end the war on drugs by trying to do civil disobedience.
"I don't think we would have legalized marijuana in Canada if there wasn't a massive act of civil disobedience from coast to coast."