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'Very unexpected': Vancouver police raid Dana Larsen's magic mushroom dispensaries


One week after raiding an unsanctioned compassion club in the Downtown Eastside, Vancouver police have targeted three storefronts for allegedly selling psilocybin mushrooms.

Several magic mushroom dispensaries have opened across the city in recent years, following a similar pattern to the "grey market" cannabis shops that opened prior to federal legalization.

While the Vancouver Police Department did not identify which locations were targeted in Wednesday's raid, long-time drug legalization advocate Dana Larsen confirmed they were the three licensed businesses he operates on East Hastings Street, West Broadway and Granville Street.

Larsen told CTV News he was arrested and held in custody for about six hours before being released on bail.

"I think this is very clearly a motivated raid," said Larsen, who believes he was targeted for advocating for drug legalization.

"Took all of our products – all of our mushrooms and psychedelics and coca leaf."

In a Facebook live video he recorded as officers were executing search warrants at his three mushroom dispensaries, Larsen called the raid "very unexpected."

"Very surprised to see a raid happening when there's at least a dozen other dispensaries in the city operating without any legal problems, where we actually do have business licences," he added.

Police spokesperson Sgt. Steve Addison said the sudden enforcement should serve as a warning to other dispensaries operating illegally in the city.

“This relates to an ongoing investigation into what we believe is the illegal purchase and sale of psychedelic drugs, psilocybin and other products,” Addison told CTV News.

"If you do violate the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act… you could face arrest and charges."

Larsen has been battling the city over his dispensaries for months, with officials accusing him of violating the terms of his business licences. There is an ongoing effort to have those licences taken away, with a court hearing pending.

"I thought that the city would let the bureaucracy deal with us like they have with cannabis dispensaries in the past," Larsen said in his Facebook video. "We've been here at this location for three years operating very openly and transparently."

Prior to cannabis legalization, officials and police largely turned a blind eye to cannabis dispensaries, which at one point outnumbered the number of Starbucks and Tim Hortons locations in the city.

Addison said the timing of Wednesday's raid came down to police priorities and resources.

“We will always prioritize organized crime, dangerous offenders, gangsters, people who are producing and trafficking the most harmful opioids such as fentanyl, heroin, crack cocaine,” he said.

Larsen has used revenue from his dispensaries to fund a drug testing project out of his East Hastings location since 2019, and boasted Wednesday at having analyzed more than 60,000 samples.

"I don't think this raid is a good use of resources," he said in his live stream. "But you know, sometimes it takes a raid to make change happen, to get people worked up and thinking about whether they want to have mushroom dispensaries in their city, whether they want Vancouver to continue to be a leader in the progressive drug movement."

Speaking to CTV News after his release, Larsen admitted to breaking the law, but said he would not go down without a fight.

“If you look at the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, yes, we’re in violation of that. But there’s a Charter of Rights and a constitution in this country that overrides those laws and I believe at some point, the courts in Canada and the politicians will agree with me," he said.

Last week, Vancouver police raided the Drug User Liberation Front's Hastings Street office, seized an unspecified quantity of suspected drugs, and arrested co-founders Jeremy Kalicum and Eris Nyx.

DULF had a stated aim of providing tested drugs at cost to reduce the number of drug overdose deaths in the city.

The enforcement action was met with outcry from harm-reduction advocates, including the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, part of Simon Fraser University's Health Sciences program, which called DULF's compassion club "courageous and ethical" in the face of the toxic drug crisis.

The raid was supported by B.C. Premier David Eby, however, who said the organization was breaking the law and had to be stopped, despite DULF having done "important, life-saving work." Top Stories

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