Magic mushroom dispensary with Ontario-based owners opens in Winnipeg’s Osborne Village

A new retail operation has added a psychedelic vibe to Osborne Village, one of the latest illegal magic mushroom dispensaries to open across Canada that’s challenging existing rules on the substance.

Magic Mush claims to be Manitoba’s first magic mushroom dispensary, according to Winnipeg-based lawyer Jamie Kagan, a partner at Thompson Dorfman Sweatman who’s representing the Ontario-based owners of the business.

“We’re hoping that similar to what happened in the cannabis industry, which started in what we’d like to call a grey market, we’ll move to a legal market as the governments start to become more aware that there is an interest and there is a demand in it, especially in safe consumption” Kagan said.

Magic mushrooms typically contain psilocybin or psilocin, which are hallucinogens classified as Schedule III substances under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The production, sale and possession of them is illegal in Canada with some exemptions to allow people living with mental health disorders to access psilocybin legally through a health-care provider for therapeutic use.

“It’s on the list of banned substances, correct,” Kagan said.

Several other magic mushroom dispensaries have opened elsewhere including in Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Ont., and London, Ont. Kagan said the owners know they’re taking a risk.

“Here, what they’re hoping is the same response that they saw in Ottawa, Hamilton, Toronto, Vancouver which is a police presence to make sure the product is being sold safely, only to adults,” Kagan said.

“It’s not near a school, it’s in a commercial area and if they’re responsibly marketing a product that is natural that is addressing some very large mental health issues that the community will allow it as sort of a pilot project more than sort of an illegal operation that needs to be stopped.”

He said the store’s products are coming from Ontario, but Kagan wouldn’t say exactly who’s producing the mushrooms.

“I don’t think they want to go through their supply chain,” he said. “All of them are medically processed, clean. This is not street narcotics.”

Officers with the Winnipeg Police Service’s drug enforcement unit work with a federal inspector on dispensaries, a spokesperson said in an email. The WPS said officers are aware of Magic Mush but so far no tickets have been issued and no products have been seized.

Experimental phase

The owners of Magic Mush, who previously opened stores in Ottawa and Toronto, officially launched their Winnipeg dispensary on May 13.

The store is only carrying a small amount of product to start in what Kagan described as an experimental phase for the owners of the shop. The front of the store features colourful magic mushroom artwork, but there’s no business name listed on the exterior of the dispensary.

Customers walking into the store are greeted by a minimalist atmosphere with magic mushroom art on the walls, books about magic mushrooms and a mushroom menu displayed on two screens featuring options to buy both edibles and dried magic mushrooms.

The words Magic Mush and an image of mushrooms are displayed in fluorescent lighting inside a store.
The interior of the Magic Mush store on Osborne Street in Winnipeg. (Josh Crabb/CBC )

Kagan said customers have to show identification to prove they’re at least 19 years old, and there are limits on how many grams a customer can buy.

“If 10 people were to show up, they would be out of product,” he said. “They want to be responsible, they’re not trying to create a flood. They want to show that this product is safe, can be sold reasonably and responsibly. They’ll pay their PST, their GST, just like every other commercial entity in hopes that Manitoba will go the same way as Ontario and B.C.”

The City of Winnipeg said it doesn’t provide any special permits or licensing for dispensaries and there aren’t any zoning considerations.

The province would be responsible for licensing, according to the city, however, a spokesperson for the province said there is no provincial oversight for this type of business.

No approved products: Health Canada

On its website, Health Canada warns taking magic mushrooms may cause an individual to see, hear or feel things that aren’t there. Consuming them may also lead to anxiety, fear, nausea and muscle twitches as well as an increased heart rate and blood pressure. 

“In some cases, the consumption of magic mushrooms can lead to ‘bad trips’ or ‘flashbacks,'” the federal regulator says on its site.

Two black pouches of magic mushrooms are displayed on a counter inside a magic mushroom dispensary.
Dried magic mushrooms are sold in this packaging at the Magic Mush location in Winnipeg. (Josh Crabb/CBC )

While some advocates have promoted the therapeutic benefits of consuming magic mushrooms, Health Canada said clinical trials have shown promising results but at this time there are no approved therapeutic products containing psilocybin in Canada or elsewhere.

That hasn’t stopped Nathan Stewart, 19, from experimenting with magic mushrooms.

“Not just psilocybin, I take different types of mushrooms as probiotics every day,” Stewart said. “I think there’s a lot of awesome fungi stuff.”

Although he hadn’t heard about Magic Mush until approached by CBC outside the store, he thinks it will be popular with people looking for a safe source.

“I know other people who get mushrooms other places and they’re either like not the best or just like are a really bad time,” Stewart said. “It’s super exciting.”

Derrick Heaton, another passer-by, didn’t notice the store at first while shopping in Osborne Village, but now that he knows it’s there he said he isn’t opposed to it.

“Looking at it now it’s hard to imagine how we couldn’t have seen it,” Heaton said. “In terms of a store like that, I’m all for it. People should have an opportunity to try, in a safe way, different things if they want to.”

Kagan said the owners hope regulators, law enforcement and governments see it through a similar lens.

“They’re not drug dealers, they’re not hoping in any way, shape or form to do anything other than advance a discussion about a drug that has shown tremendous promise in dealing with depression, stress and anxiety.”