A new business in Bradford West Gwillimbury has caught a lot of eyes recently, and raised a lot of questions from the public due to its sale of the illegal substance psilocybin. Earlier this week a woman was arrested after a police raid, but the business plans to reopen.
Funguyz, a mushroom dispensary at 67 Holland St. W., doesn’t only sell psilocybin-based products, but says it aims to educate the public on the positive effects the products can have on those who take them.
“In an anticipation of being subject to local authorities, our initiative is to reopen to the public as soon as possible,” said Reggie Floyd, ambassador and spokesperson for Funguyz.
“We have a lawyer retained for things like this and we don’t mind when this happens. Our whole position is to raise awareness about psilocybin and change the perception, and this is one of those ways; to challenge it in court, which is something we’re not opposed to," he said.
The South Simcoe Police Service said they do not speak about specific businesses or identify them.
On Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, SSPS executed a search warrant at a property and seized psilocybin products, including food items, drinks, teas, and complete mushrooms. A 37-year-old Bradford woman now faces charges for possession of a controlled substance, possession for the purpose of trafficking, and trafficking in a substance.
“The South Simcoe Police Service would like to remind the public that any product containing psilocybin or its derivatives is illegal and cannot be possessed, sold or purchased,” police stated in a news release.
“There are no people or places within our jurisdiction that are licensed or exempted from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to be able to sell or distribute these products. Police have made the Town of Bradford aware of the premise and its illegality.”
Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic prodrug produced by fungi, and these fungi are more commonly known as magic mushrooms. Products containing psilocybin are illegal in Canada.
While legality remains an issue, Funguyz has four other locations — three in Toronto and one in London — and plans to continue expanding into Niagara and Kitchener. Funguyz only sells to customers aged 19 or older who must show a piece of I.D., while also signing a waiver understanding their rights and the liabilities.
The idea for Funguyz came to Floyd when he was in British Columbia, a place he travels to frequently, and he thought about how different mushrooms are viewed there versus in Ontario.
“The stigma around mushrooms in B.C. disappeared years ago, it’s completely normalized,” he said. “I was able to order mushrooms on my phone right to me on the beach. Every time I’d come back to Ontario the access to psilocybin was essentially non-existent.”
To get psilocybin in Ontario, Floyd would have to order it from B.C. One night when he and his brother-in-law were chatting about mushrooms, the idea of opening stores in Ontario started to take shape.
“We realized we should just open up a business here instead of ordering and having it delivered from B.C.,” said Floyd. “That’s how Funguyz came about.”
Similarly to marijuana before it was legalized, Floyd believes the stigma around mushrooms is waning in Ontario.
“In B.C., they’ve had growers out there for years and it has been a hidden business for a very long time with mostly just online sales,” he explained. “We decided to take it a step further and open up a store front so that people aren’t scared about it and can learn about it and educate themselves. This way they can walk in and speak to a human behind a counter and have a conversation.”
Access to an illegal drug can be “shady” when you’re dealing mostly with dealers, says Floyd, who likens the way mushrooms are viewed now to the way marijuana was viewed as recently as a decade ago before it was legalized.
Wanting to push back against the stigma around mushrooms, Floyd points to the clinical trials going on right now.
“Psilocybin, either in microdoses or macrodoses, acts very similar to antidepressants,” he explained. “The effects in terms of health are incredible even though it’s still early with it helping with anything from mood elevation to anxiety to depression. There’s the whole other side with the recreational aspect too, people who just want to enjoy it and experience things in a different light.”
Floyd says he and the Funguyz team don’t pretend that they’re doctors and says they don't give medical advice.
“We make that very clear,” he said.
Speaking on the issue of legality with BradfordToday prior to the SSPS executing a search warrant at the property, Floyd explained this is just part of the process of pushing an outdated view forward.
“It’s very much illegal, but with anything else the perception is changing,” he said. “The laws are a bit archaic, they haven’t been changed or looked at since the 60’s and so the stigma around psilocybin is stuck in the past.
"Most people, when they come into the stores, know what they’re coming in for because they’ve done mushrooms before and are comfortable with it, but there are people who are nervous because it is illegal," said Floyd.
"That nervousness may alter their decision in trying it and we think that’s a big roadblock. There’s already cases before the courts regarding access to it for health care and the lawyers are dealing with it on that side, and we’re just sort of protesting it alongside them in an open way."
He continued to acknowledge the risk involved in operating a business that sells illegal products, but reiterated this is the best way to both educate and destigmatize.
“We know the police have a job to do,” he said. “I address this in two ways. I think the cases in front of the court now will end up in our favour and I also think there’s a lot bigger problems going on right now than people buying a little bit of psilocybin. There’s a huge pandemic going on with prescription drugs and opioids, and there’s a backlog in the health system and court system. We’re not trying to tie anyone up here, we’re not trying to make anything worse, we’re trying to better both systems. We’re ready to fight our case when we have to address it legally.”
At the end of the day, Floyd says having psilocybin publicly accessible means it's much safer with those using it knowing where it’s coming from and where it was grown.
“We try to source our mushrooms locally and we speak directly to the growers,” said Floyd. “The growers have a good system in place, they test it, and there’s nothing nefarious in the creation of it. I personally test almost everything that comes in so I have a good idea of everything we’re selling and I listen to feedback. We’re not here to pressure anybody and we’re not pushing an agenda.”
Funguyz decided to expand to Bradford because Floyd enjoys the area as a pit stop on his way up north to cottage country.
“I’ve been many times and I like Bradford, it’s a beautiful place and we thought it would be a great fit,” he explained. “Bradford’s also ended up becoming one of the best locations we have. We’re creating jobs there, creating revenue for the community, and we’re not here to cause any trouble, we’re here to be a part of the community.”