A hemp dispensary in Florida has started selling "magic" mushrooms that are technically legal.
Chillum sells mushrooms containing Amanita muscaria, rather than the outlawed psilocybin.
Owner Carlos Hermida told Insider he's prepared for a regulatory crackdown, but wants to expand.
A hemp dispensary in Florida has started selling psychedelic mushrooms as it pushes legal boundaries.
Chillum, founded in Tampa in 2018 by Carlos Hermida, introduced "magic" mushrooms to his dispensary last month. But Hermida has taken another route to bypassing strict laws, based on a curious legal precedent he hopes will catch on.
Hermida tends to refer to his mushrooms without calling them "magic" - a term typically associated with psilocybin, the psychedelic substance in traditional "magic" mushrooms.
Psilocybin is illegal in the US and classed as a Schedule 1 drug by the Department of Justice, alongside heroin and LSD, which it says have "a high potential for abuse and serve no legitimate medical purpose in the United States."
Instead, Hermida says he has found something of a loophole by selling Amanita muscaria mushrooms that don't contain psilocybin, making them legal by federal law. The distinctive red and white mushroom is legal in every state except for Louisiana, per Third Wave.
Hermida argued that drugs are only banned "when they become a problem," suggesting Amanita muscaria's lack of uptake has shielded it from regulation.
The mushroom is typically used for its psychedelic qualities, but it's also poisonous. A National Library of Medicine review found one patient fell into a coma after accidentally ingesting the mushroom, while Hermida accepts they could cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested raw.
Hermida says he cooks and treats the mushrooms, which he imports from Lithuania, to reduce their toxicity.
Chillum now sells the strain in capsules, gummies and powders. There are also mycology growth kits that could theoretically allow a customer to make their own psilocybin, though Hermida asks buyers to sign a form saying they won't do so.
Hermida fought to legalize medicinal marijuana in Florida, and built his business on loosening restrictions. He says he hasn't noticed a big jump in traffic since adding mushrooms to his product line, but neither is there a typical buyer for the products.
"I've had old men and women come in, I've had people in business suits come in, I've had 20 to 23-year-olds come in wanting to have a good trip," Hermida told Insider.
Hoping for progress
As recreational marijuana use becomes widely accessible in more states, advocates like Hermida are now pushing for psychedelics to be more accessible, at least for medical purposes.
He says he is making preparations for any lifting of laws banning psilocybin, while he plans to set up more branches of Chillum.
Hermida's experiment at Chillum is the latest in a line of North American dispensaries pushing back against drug laws in the hope of reform.
A report by CBC found magic mushroom dispensaries were openly operating in Vancouver, Canada, as police chose not to clamp down on everyday use in favor of chasing opioid traffickers.
But Hermida, who told Insider he hired a lawyer and contacted law enforcement to warn them about the new products, is also bracing for a legislative reaction if his experiment proves popular - particularly in a state where recreational use of marijuana is still outlawed.
"I could see some pushback, yeah," Hermida said. "But I'm an activist and that's what I'm here for. So if somebody pushes back I'm gonna push further, you know? And if they make it illegal, we'll stop selling and start advocating to legalize."