The curious legal limbo of magic mushroom spores

Despite psilocybin being a Schedule 1 federally illegal substance in the United States, it’s legal to buy and sell psilocybin mushroom spores for “microscopy use only” as the spores themselves do not actually contain any psilocybin.

There are apparently hundreds of thousands of newly minted microscopy devotees that have emerged across the United States and worldwide, as the psilocybin spore trade is a multimillion-dollar legally compliant market.

How can this be legal, people ask?

The letter of the law forbids any sale, purchase, or possession of psilocybin spores with the intention of cultivating magic mushrooms. 

The ambiguity around the world ‘intention’ is capitalized upon by spore sellers and buyers, as the caveat that spores are for sale ‘for microscopy use only’ technically indemnifies vendors and customers against legal repercussions. 

A handful of states in the U.S., such as Georgia, Idaho, and California, specifically prohibit the sale and possession of psilocybin spores, but these states are the exception rather than the rule. 

RELATED: These legal psychedelics will trip you out

Prints, Swabs, Slides and More 

There are a number of different mediums and forms which one can acquire spores.

Spore prints are obtained by placing a fresh mushroom cap on a piece of tin foil, a glass slide, or white paper and allowing it to naturally drop a copy of its genetic information onto the surface overnight. 

Spore syringes are another commonly available means of storing and transferring mushroom spores. 

Syringes feature an infusion of psilocybin spores suspended in a liquid base, allowing for safe storage and easy inoculation onto a sterilized substrate. 

Spore swabs are yet another way to preserve and circulate spores. These contain a clean sample of the spores on a sterilized swab and can be transferred onto agar plates or into a liquid culture.

Golden Teacher spores are one of the most ubiquitously available microscopy materials for aspiring mycologists, along with staples like B + and Albino Penis Envy spores. There are also a number of widely available spores with strain names like “Amazonian cubensis,” and “Thai cubensis.” referencing the origin of the spores. 

mushroom spore print
A mushroom spore print from Inoculate the World, a legal vendor of spore kits Photo: Inoculate the World

One of the most interesting facets of the psilocybin spore trade comes in the form of exotic wild mushroom species that are sourced from remote locations across the world, stabilized under laboratory conditions, and introduced to the market. 

There are collectors who will travel and source wild psilocybe cubensis specimens from rhinoceros dung in Nepal, cow pastures in Cuba, and elephant excrement in Thailand and then stabilize and integrate these genetics into the global market.

The underground community of citizen scientists and spore vendors is not without controversy as well; there are numerous cases of people ripping off and passing along someone else’s proprietary genetics as their own, and some vendors will sell non-viable or improperly stored spores that invite contamination and difficulty in cultivation. 

An All Time High 

As public interest in and use of psychedelics has reached an all-time high, the psilocybin mushroom spore trade continues to flood the United States with highly desirable laboratory material. 

Psilocybin mushroom legalization within a controlled setting in Oregon and varying decriminalization measures across numerous jurisdictions throughout the United States have led to a surge in interest in and availability of not only psilocybin mushroom spores but also the mushrooms themselves. 

Etsy stores, community circles, ‘mushroom churches,’ and pop-up vendors brazenly sell the fruit and a staggering variety of different psilocybin-infused branded products that have become one of the most celebrated and sought-after substances of our time. 

As anecdotal evidence and clinical trial data supporting the safety and medical benefit of psilocybin continue to mount, people of all demographics and ages in the United States are not waiting for FDA approval and are bypassing costly pathways to access like we’ve seen in the $3500 a session Oregon psilocybin services program rollout. 

There’s always a need for more citizen scientists, so make sure you do your homework and purchase from a reputable vendor if you’re interested in studying psilocybin spores in your own home laboratory. 

This article was submitted by a guest contributor to GreenState. The statements within do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GreenState, Hearst, or its subsidiaries. The author is solely responsible for the content.

dennis walker

Dennis Walker is a satirist and journalist who is primarily known as the founder and host of Mycopreneur Podcast. He writes and produces content for numerous platforms in the cannabis and psychedelic space and loves learning about and participating in cannabis culture around the world.