Ripped-off customers at magic mushroom store got drugs packaged in filthy conditions, police say
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A Winnipeg police commander has slammed the accused operators of an Osborne Village storefront that openly sold magic mushrooms, alleging customers were being bilked and the psychedelic substances were packaged in “disgusting” conditions.
Police drug investigators arrested a man and woman, both 37 years old, during last Friday’s raid at Magic Mush, the retail storefront they were allegedly operating at Osborne Street and River Avenue that was selling the mushrooms, which contain the chemical compounds psilocybin and psilocin. Both are hallucinogens and restricted under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Magic Mush opened May 13.
Both suspects were inside the business at the time of the raid and were arrested without incident, Winnipeg Police Service organized crime Insp. Elton Hall told reporters Thursday.
Last Friday, investigators searched the business, a vehicle and a residence on the 300 block of Waterfront Drive, which Hall alleged was being used to store the mushrooms and cash.
Police seized approximately 767 grams of psilocybin mushrooms, $16,600 in cash, various electronics and drug-packaging materials, an ATM and Mercedes-Benz vehicle.
Police found the rear of the Osborne Village storefront was under construction, with no washroom or access to plumbing or other means of cleaning hands, Hall said.
“A garbage pile was located on the floor at the rear of this location in which trash and rubbish, including broken drywall and used building materials were placed,” he said.
“Psilocybin was being placed onto the dirty floor and weighed beside that rubbish pile before being packaged. A janitor, who was packaging the psilocybin, did not wear gloves or a mask and did not have a clean surface to package the drugs.”
That janitor was initially detained but released without charge, Hall said, describing the man as a newcomer to Canada who might not have completely understood what he was doing wasn’t allowed.
The police inspector accused the arrested pair of ripping off purchasers by bringing in a single mushroom strain in bulk and repackaging it as different varieties.
“We allege that people were paying various prices for a single strain of psilocybin. These packages were marked and sold as different, identifiable strains, ultimately deceiving customers,” Hall said, noting the price range was $50-$125 per package.
Police were seizing another 13-pound shipment of the mushrooms — coming from another province that Hall would not reveal — expected to arrive at the Waterfront Drive home Thursday, he said.
People purchasing the drugs — with cash only — weren’t asked for identification to prove they were of legal age, though police did not observe anyone obviously underage going inside while it was under surveillance, Hall said.
Cash was stored within reach of customers and the ATM was next to the window, making it a target for a so-called “smash-and-grab” robbery, Hall said. He also noted that the door was lockable from the inside, making the location a prime target for robbers.
Hall said he has no issue with properly conducted drug decriminalization, but that it is not the same thing as outright drug dealing.
“People cannot arbitrarily break the law any time they feel it is unfair or they don’t agree with it,” he said, describing the operation as simple drug trafficking.
“Law enforcement cannot be expected to turn a blind eye to lawlessness. This is not a grey market; this is, by definition, the black market. It’s illegal. Health Canada has not approved psilocybin for recreational use.”
The suspects are facing charges for trafficking a scheduled substance, possession of a scheduled substance and possessing property obtained by crime over $5,000. Both were released on promises to appear. Their names have not been made public as the charges have not yet been formally laid in court.
A lawyer who was representing the pair could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.
Updated on Thursday, May 25, 2023 4:40 PM CDT: Revised copy