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'We’re just getting started': Illegal psilocybin dispensary in Windsor, Ont. vows to fight for legalization

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FunGuyz sells magic mushrooms out of their storefront which has already been raided by police once.

“We’re clearly pro legalization,” co-owner Edgars Gorbans told CTV News Windsor Tuesday in an interview. “We just hope that having these stores [open] will draw some attention to the topic of psilocybin and the problems that are involved in accessing psilocybin.”

FunGuyz was raided by Windsor police on July 6 where officers seized nearly half a pound of dried psilocybin mushrooms, more than 1,000 capsules and other psilocybin-infused products.

An employee in the Windsor store Tuesday, who did not wish to be identified, admitted they had a lot more stock before the raid.

“We have been able to open up as soon as a few hours after a raid,” said Gorbans. “And we have customers that are waiting — as soon as the police leave — for us to continue serving.”

With 10 other stores, Gorbans said they expected this level of scrutiny and hope it leads to a bigger conversation about accessing a drug that he believes can help Canadians.

An employee who did not wish to be identified holds a handful of psilocybin capsules in the FunGuyz store in Windsor, Ont. (Michelle Maluske/CTV News Windsor)

“We’re just getting started and we hope that the word gets out,” he said.

As of January 2022, Canadians can apply through the Special Access Program (SAP) for a legal prescription for the drug.

“If you went to your doctor right now and try to get this exemption, you'd be looking at such a long wait and the chances of actually being approved are so small, that it's essentially impossible,” said Gorbans.

John Gilchrist of TheraPsil, a psilocybin advocacy group, agrees.

“It [SAP] doesn't provide wide access to a larger patient population that we believe and we know could benefit from psilocybin,” said Gilchrist. “There's only a few patient populations we're seeing that are getting access and they're mainly treatment resistant conditions such as depression and patients at the end of life experiencing anxiety.”

According to Gilchrist, who admitted he isn’t a doctor or a scientist, psilocybin allows the brain to “reset.”

“That part of your brain quiets during the psilocybin journey. It allows other parts of your brain to connect and talk and figure out problems that you may be dealing with,” said Gilchrist.

FunGuyz sells a variety of magic mushrooms at their store in Windsor, Ont. (Michelle Maluske/CTV News Windsor)

Health Canada warns against the use of psilocybin.

“While clinical trials with psilocybin have shown promising results, at this time, there are no approved therapeutic products containing psilocybin in Canada or elsewhere,” the website reads.

Health Canada said taking magic mushrooms “may cause you to see, hear or feel things that are not there, or to experience anxiety, fear, nausea and muscle twitches accompanied by increased heart rate and blood pressure.”

Gilchrist believes if the medical community can come together to agree that psilocybin can help someone at the end of their life, they should be able to discuss the concept of letting Canadians access it legally well before that.

“If we're going to offer people medical assistance in dying, we need to also offer them medical assistance in living as well,” said Gilchrist.

Both Gilchrist and Gorbans agree the current debate over legalization of psilocybin is very similar to the path taken when advocates who fought for the legalization of cannabis.

Gorbans called it “ridiculous” how long it took to legalize marijuana and he calls on decision-makers to take a “more open minded approach to what it is we're trying to achieve.”

“I think what they're doing is commendable in the sense that it's trying to push toward something,” said Jon Liedtke Tuesday.

In 2016, he opened ‘Higher Limits,’ a cannabis lounge in downtown Windsor.

FunGuyz sells a variety of magic mushrooms at their store in Windsor, Ont. (Michelle Maluske/CTV News Windsor)Liedtke said it was a place for medicinal marijuana users to consume their drugs.

“We had been seeing an ongoing persecution of cannabis users which led to arrests which led to future problems in life for something that is a benign plant quite frankly,” said Liedtke.

Ultimately, Higher Limits was forced to close two months after marijuana was legalized in Canada in October 2018, because it violated Ontario’s anti-smoking rules.

“What we wanted to do was help to normalize and destigmatize [cannabis usage]. And we like to think that the space that we had did a very important job of it here locally in Windsor,” said Liedtke.

He cautioned psilocybin advocates that it’s a long road to legalization.

“Cannabis took 25 years of actual legal access already before it got to recreational access. They're not the same path,” said Liedtke. 

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