Plante vows to crack down on illegal magic mushroom dispensary slated to open in Montreal
A chain of illegal magic mushroom dispensaries in Ontario is determined to open a location in Montreal this summer despite the threat of a crackdown by Mayor Valérie Plante.
The chain is called FunGuyz, which operates nine dispensaries across Ontario and has plans to open another spot in Montreal in three weeks.
Owner Edgar Gorbans did not want his face shown on camera, and instead chose to be interviewed by CTV News wearing a mushroom costume.
He said his products are for therapeutic use.
"We're trying to provide access to psilocybin that the government can't," he said.
Psilocybin is one of the active ingredients in magic mushrooms. According to Health Canada, there are currently no approved therapeutic products containing psilocybin in the country or elsewhere.
There are, however, clinical trials that have shown promising results in treating patients with anxiety and depression.
"It is used across Canada. There's a special access program under Health Canada that physicians can use and treat people with it," said Jean-Sebastien Fallu, a professor at the Université de Montréal's School of Psychoeducation.
Still, selling psilocybin is illegal in Canada. Gorbans has faced multiple attempts to shut him down and Plante said his stores will not be tolerated in Montreal.
"Mushrooms [are] not legal in Canada so, of course, we will apply the law and Montreal police officers will be ready to act based on the law," the mayor said.
POLICE ASSESSING 'DIFFERENT INTERVENTION SCENARIOS'
The Montreal police service (SPVM) told CTV News that trafficking the drug is governed by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which comes with penalties.
In a statement, the SPVM said it will work with Laval police over the coming weeks, "to evaluate the various possible intervention scenarios, on our respective territories and in concert. Responsible officers will be identified in each of our police departments. We will also be checking with our police partners across the country to see what kind of response has been given to this type of commercial activity. We are also evaluating the possibility of meeting with the managers of the establishments in advance to validate their intentions and explain our orientations."
Police said they're also consulting with public health in the matter, and that "we have the safety of our citizens at heart."
'WE WOULD OPEN RIGHT BACK UP,' OWNER SAYS
Gorbans says he plans to open up anyway; he's already rented a storefront on Ontario Street in the Sainte-Marie neighbourhood and hopes to be open the first week of July.
"We're going to try. They can't technically shut us down, they can come in, seize our product and when their search warrant ends, we would open right back up like we are doing in Ontario," he said.
He says he's not afraid of being arrested. In fact, he said he would welcome criminal charges and that his ultimate goal is to challenge the illegality of psilocybin in court.
"With us having criminal charges, it's a lot easier for us to go through the system in order to do the constitutional challenge," Gorbans said.
The push for cannabis legalization started in the same way, Fallu noted, adding that he expects it's only a matter of time for magic mushrooms to get the same treatment.
"For me, it's obvious that psilocybin will be recreationally accessible legally," the professor said.
In the meantime, stores like FunGuyz are determined to push the boundaries and force governments to react.