If you have even a passing familiarity with the imagery of the 1960's, you are likely familiar with the psychedelic drawings that involve “magic mushrooms.” But these fungi aren't a relic of a bygone era; these hallucinogens are still widely used today. Formally known as psilocybin mushrooms, these fungi include various psychedelic compounds that can cause varying degrees of hallucination. Despite some recent efforts, these mushrooms are a controlled substance the possession of which is a felony in California.
What are Psilocybin Mushrooms?
There are many different types of psilocybin mushroom; the term generally refers to a category of fungi that contains psychedelic compounds like psilocybin, baeocystin, or psilocin. Some of the largest genera of mushrooms include psilocybin varieties, including:
Psilocybin mushrooms are found in the largest concentrations in North America, South America, and Europe. Other regions that have significant populations are Japan, India, and Australia.
While psilocybin mushrooms occur naturally in the areas mentioned above, foraging alone is not enough to satisfy the demand for these fungi. It is common for manufacturers to build large grow operations in order to cultivate these mushrooms in bulk.
Like any living thing, the conditions in which psilocybin mushrooms will flourish depend on the variety. Because of this, there are a number of tools which may be necessary to cultivate these mushrooms. However, all mushrooms require the same basic requirements of soil, spore, and water.
The building block of cultivating mushrooms is the soil. Also known as a substrate, these mushrooms need something other than simple soil to grow. Although the simple nature of these organisms means less oxygen is needed than for most plants, a special soil is necessary for fungi to thrive. Most cultivation is done in sterilized glass, including mason jars. The containers are filled with a mixture of substances, with the soil primarily made up of brown rice. Rice is ideal because it allows the roots of the fungi to spread naturally.
Growing plants requires seeds. For fungi to grow, spores are required. The planting of these spores is a very time-consuming, delicate process. It must be done in a completely sterilized environment. Without sterilization, it's possible that the fungi can become infected and harmful. The process itself involves carefully injecting the spores into the soil through a prepared syringe. Once planted, the spores have to be carefully stored in a controlled environment.
Like any living thing, water is an important component to growth for Psilocybin mushrooms. However, it is not difficult to over-saturate the fungi. Instead of directly watering the fungi or soil, cultivators must nebulize the air every 24 hours. This process involves spraying a mist of water into the container holding the mushroom. The nebulization process brings fresh oxygen to the mushroom and also helps dissolve problematic substances that can accumulate.
For most people that ingest psilocybin mushrooms, the desired effect is to experience the hallucinatory effect the fungi are known for. A typical dose of hallucinogenic mushrooms is between 1 and 2 grams. With this amount, it is common for the experience to last between 1 and 1.5 hours.
Generally speaking, a mushroom trip is described as an experience somewhere between being awake and asleep. In fact, brain functions during a trip are similar to sleeping. The effects of these mushrooms include altering the user's perception. It can include illusions and hallucinations. It can also lead to large emotional swings and even distort the user's sense of time. Some report sensory changes like halos surrounding light sources.
Another frequent effect is the unusual sensation of synaesthesia. This phenomenon involves the stimulation of one sense triggering another. For instance, users have discussed tasting colors, smelling sounds, and more.
Potential Medicinal Uses
Currently, there are no medical issues that are treated with psilocybin mushrooms. In fact, since the mushrooms were classified as a Schedule I substance in the 1970's there has been effectively zero clinical research on the effects of these mushrooms. Before the reclassification, some clinical trials were investigating psilocybin mushrooms as a potential treatment for cluster headaches and addiction issues. However, to date, there have been no clinical trials that support these theories.
Hallucinogens like psilocybin mushrooms aren't without their side effects. Users have reported a number of unpleasant effects over the years. The mushrooms have reportedly caused physical side effects that can last for hours or even days. These include tremors, nausea, coordination issues, and excessive sweating. In some cases, users may experience increased blood pressure, trouble breathing, and even an irregular heartbeat. Dry mouth and loss of appetite are also common effects for many.
Physical side effects can seem minor compared to some of the psychological effects that have been reported. Psilocybin mushrooms reportedly can cause serious bouts of paranoia and psychosis. In some cases, these effects can last longer than expected. Coming down from a trip also regularly leads to both depression and anxiety. In some cases, the anxiety is so severe it can lead to recurring panic attacks.
While not all trips result in these side effects, the use of these hallucinogens can have major consequences. Physical and mental impairment has led to tragic accidents, many of which the user has no memory of later.
Methods of Use
There are a few popular ways that psilocybin mushrooms are ingested. The hallucinogenic effects of the mushrooms occur merely by ingesting them. However, the mushrooms are known for their foul taste which often leads users to mix them with other foods to mask their taste. It is not uncommon for mushrooms to be mixed in with peanut butter, chocolate, or Nutella spread to lessen the bad taste. Brewing the mushrooms in a tea is also a common method of use. Others have reported mixing mushrooms into fruit smoothies or even lemon juice.
California Penalties for Possession of Psilocybin Mushrooms
Despite its somewhat common use, psilocybin mushrooms are still a controlled substance in California. Thanks to Proposition 47, an initiative approved by California voters, simply possessing most drugs for personal use is a misdemeanor. This proposition was proposed in order to limit prison overcrowding and focus on rehabilitating those with addiction issues. However, some circumstances can lead to a felony charge for possessing psilocybin mushrooms. This is important, as the difference between a misdemeanor and felony charges can be measured by years.
Possession of Lower Quantities
If you are in possession of psilocybin mushrooms that you intend to use personally, you will likely be charged with a misdemeanor pursuant to California Health and Safety Code 11350. Known informally as “simple possession,” a conviction under this statute can carry a $1,000 fine, community service, and up to 1 year in jail. However, it is rare for first-time offenders to face jail time. These fines can go up if you have multiple convictions. It is also possible that a defendant with no criminal history may be eligible for a diversion program which allows that person to avoid a conviction if they meet certain requirements.
However, there are two major factors that can turn a misdemeanor charge into a felony. They include having a serious criminal history or possessing the drugs with the intent to sell them.
Prior Criminal Record
Simple possession can go from a misdemeanor to a felony for prior convictions of very specific crimes. These include convictions for:
- A “serious felony” as described by California Penal Code 1192.7(c) which includes arson, murder, kidnapping, and other major crimes; or
- A sex crime that would require the defendant to register as a sex offender.
Possession with Intent to Sell
Not all possession crimes are considered “simple possession” by prosecutors. If you possess psilocybin mushroom with the intention to sell them you may be charged with possession with intent to sell. Possession with intent to sell is a felony charge, and diversionary programs are not available. Each charge carries a potential penalty of 2, 3, or 4 years in prison in addition to heavy fines.
While it can be difficult to prove what you intended to do with the mushrooms, prosecutors can use some of the circumstances of your arrest to infer what you intended to do. One of the most common ways this is done is by highlighting the amount of mushrooms you had in your possession. If you are in possession of only 1-2 grams you can plausibly claim that you only possessed the mushrooms for personal use. On the other hand, if you are caught with several pounds of illegal fungi it is hard to make the case you only intended to ingest all of those mushrooms yourself.
California Psilocybin Mushroom Possession Attorneys
If you have been charged with the possession of psilocybin mushrooms in L.A. County, William Kroger may be able to help. William Kroger has dedicated his practice to defending those accused of crimes. He works closely with his clients to help them build their defense and obtain the most favorable outcome possible. Contact William Kroger for a free consultation.