Trip Advisory: A rough guide to ‘shrooming’ in Sunshine State

June 21, 2023
3 mins read

Words by Shelton Hull

There has been a popular resurgence of interest in hallucinogenic mushrooms in recent years, particularly here in Florida. A big factor in that boom has been the state’s massive military veteran community, which has seized upon the plant’s usefulness for treating PTSD and other psychological issues, including addiction to alcohol or even harder drugs. That has been happening for years, decades even, mostly off the record and under the table. But the new generation of veterans, who’ve been plagued by a mental health epidemic, resulting in tens of thousands of suicides over the past 15 years with Florida accounting for about 10% of the total — are vigilant about embracing what can bring relief to their peers, and that’s what brought this subject to the forefront. 

Before we get into the details of the current shroom scene in Florida, let’s first talk about what the words actually mean. When you say “shrooms,” in the colloquial sense of the word, you could be referring to any number of different but interrelated varieties of mushrooms, each of which has their own unique properties and potential applications. 

Psilocybin was banned by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which remains the standard by which all drugs are defined on the federal level, amarita muscaria is legal. You’re not allowed to sell them specifically for eating, but one man’s loophole is another man’s noose, as has proven true in Florida from the jump. And so it goes with shrooms.

When you hear references to mushrooms as a commercially available (i.e., legal) product, they are most likely talking about amarita muscaria, which is native to Siberia but has been popular in the U.S. for many years. You have surely seen them, most likely in either “Smurfs” or “Super Mario Bros.” (They actually feature prominently in the new Mario movie, as any true fan would insist on.)

This is what they’re selling in Ybor City, and that is why you’re reading this right now. Chillum Mushroom and Hemp Dispensary opened as a straight hemp dispensary (Tampa’s first) back in 2018, then started selling shrooms in September 2022. Not just actual shrooms in the form of mushroom caps, capsules and gummies but also spores, mycology cultures, entire grow kits and even mushroom/hemp joints. At one point, you could even buy the mycelium to grow your own psilocybin, but since the product was only legal for research purposes, they were banned from selling to anyone who expressed any interest in actually consuming the product. They also sold a whole range of “functional mushrooms” like Lion’s Mane and Reishi, prized for their brain boosting properties and widely available in teas, coffees and energy drinks at almost every grocery store. 

 Chillum has been reaching out to Folio for months now (thanks to The Specktator for being the first of many to alert me to the company’s existence way back on Sept. 18). Their Facebook page has more posts about psychedelics than it does about cannabis, at least in recent months, and it’s actually pretty useful. After getting tons of questions about this from readers, we’ve finally got some answers for you.

With amarita muscaria being unregulated and dispensaries being highly regulated, it was inevitable that the Florida Department of Agriculture would investigate, which they began doing in December. Chillum eventually halted sales of most mushroom products in mid-January, saying that certain ingredients might be poisonous, leaving only the grow kits, mycelium and supplements for sale. (They’ve also launched LearnEuphoria.com to help wise up the marks on this complicated subject.)

True, all psychedelic mushrooms are essentially low-grade poison, as most (non-cannabis) drugs are; the trippy feeling you get is technically a reaction to the poison, which won’t kill you, but can definitely ruin your weekend. While it’s technically impossible to overdose on any psychedelic mushroom, the effects can vary wildly between different people or even different samples from the same batch. The days of foraging for shrooms in the wild, tromping through cow pastures in the dead of night, are mostly long gone. That’s a good thing because it’s easy to pick the wrong thing, especially at night, especially when you’re not an expert. 

Having access to legal shrooms removes some risk of bad outcomes with reliable supply and consistent dosages. That’s why more communities are moving in that direction. The movement began in Denver, which legalized psilocybin mushrooms via Ordinance 301 in May 2019; Oregon joined them in November 2020, and then the rest of the state of Colorado last November. Other cities to legalize include Cambridge, Detroit, Oakland, Santa Monica and Seattle. Many of the activists involved in this are veterans of the movement that’s had similar success with cannabis, and that is true here, as well. For example, Chillum owner Carlos Hermida is himself a founder and deputy director of the Suncoast chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Will Florida move in a similar direction? Nope, no time soon, anyway. Let’s see about getting cannabis fully legalized here first, and maybe we can revisit the subject of shrooms after the next governor takes over in January 2027. Hopefully by then, Democrats will have found a way to flip the legislature blue and then we can talk. Speaking of which, now that we’ve covered the basics, you readers can school me on the details, and we’ll follow up on this subject later this year. As the old newsmen say, this is a developing story…

 

 

Shelton Hull has been writing for Folio Weekly since 1997, but his resume goes back even further. He has written for almost every newspaper, magazine and zine in Northeast Florida, as well as publications like Orlando Weekly, Narrow GNV, Creative Loafing Tampa, Charleston City Paper, Ink19 and The Atlantic.

He currently writes the "Folio Weed" column, which he created in 2018; he remains one of the widest-read and most influential cannabis writers in the world today. He also compiles material for "Weird Wild Stuff" column, and he previously wrote the legendary "Money Jungle" column for Folio Weekly from 1999 to 2009.

He is a regular contributor to "First Coast Connect" on WJCT, as well as the Jacksonville Music Experience. He is a co-host of "The Contrast Project" and the "Bold City Civics" podcast. He is also a co-founder of the record label Bold City Music Productions. He can be reached at sheltonhull@gmail.com.

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