By Alejandro Ramirez
Chillium Mushroom and Hemp dispensary, located in Ybor City, recently added mushroom products to its store. The store is run by owner Carlos Hermida, a long-time cannabis activist.
After getting a master’s in business administration, Hermida had moved to California to study the business aspect of marijuana at Oaksterdam University. He moved back to Florida in order to help with the campaign that pushed for the legalization of medicinal marijuana.
He became a cannabis educator and opened a non-profit which became the local branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). He has also pushed for the decriminalization of marijuana in the Tampa Bay Area.
“We have been doing this for a long time,” said Hermida.
Chillium, which was opened in 2018, is branded as the first hemp dispensary in the Tampa Bay Area. It sells hemp products, glass galleries and pipes, and several cannabinoid products.
Hermida was inspired to sell these products after going to a CHAMPS convention ( a trade show where vendors sell Glass, Vapes, CBD, etc.) in Las Vegas.
“I was there looking to buy new products for the store that I found to be creative and innovative. CHAMPS made it a point to section off four companies in the mycology section. I fell in love with these companies and I decided to rebrand our company to sell mostly mushrooms.”
According to Hermida, his store now sells several different types of mushroom products including growth kits, mycelium (fungi filaments), lion’s mane mushrooms, and even magic mushroom products.
“We [Chillium Mushroom and Hemp dispensary] are not the first people to sell amanita muscaria in the area. I first found out about the mushroom 15 years ago and I didn’t think about it until now,” said Hermida. “We are also not the first people to sell lion’s mane and other mushrooms, but we are the first people to sell it in this fashion.”
Amanita muscaria is a legal mushroom with psychedelic tendencies. It has been labeled as a toxic type of mushroom by mycologists (scientists who study fungi), which contributes to its legality. It contains an acid called ibotenic acid. However, Hermida says that this is the wrong assessment of the mushroom.
“People who practice mycology have gotten this wrong,” said Hermida. “Indigenous cultures have been smoking this mushroom since ancient times. We came across a company that … converts (decarboxylates) ibotenic acid into muscimol and prepares the mushroom properly and safely.”
According to recent studies, a properly prepared amanita muscaria mushroom may be able to benefit those who suffer from stress and depression.
The amanita products have been a big hit in the Tampa Area and according to Hermida, it may be more beneficial than the still-illegal psilocybin mushrooms.
“Our customers seem to be saying that it is more of a contemplative mushroom, that the effects that they feel of the ibotenic acid has people thinking. It’s like a soul-searching mushroom,” said Hermida.
The selling of these products follows the changing public opinion on drugs not only in the Tampa Bay area but also throughout the United States. 39 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. Meanwhile, Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for medicinal purposes.
Additionally, around 60 percent of Americans support the decriminalization of weed.
On Oct. 6, President Biden pardoned thousands of people convicted of simple marijuana possession; a step that many hope will lead to the decriminalization of marijuana on a federal level.
Studies on the benefits of marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms have shown that these drugs could be used to help people suffering from chronic pains, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and, in the case of psilocybin, they may help against drug addictions.
“People today are much more open to the idea of these types of drugs becoming legal because of the increase of research being done on their many health benefits,” said Carola Howson, a business management major at Rollins College near Orlando.
For some students living in or around the Tampa Bay Area, the legalization of these drugs for medical purposes is something that seems logical given the benefits.
“I support the legislation in full for this stuff,” said Zachary Jones, University of Tampa writing major. “One of the reasons is because studying them could lead to interesting results that may help people.”
According to Hermida, this change in culture is exemplified by Netflix releasing documentaries in the past year about the benefits of psychedelics and how these documentaries have become hits.
“The public is really starting to open its eyes to the benefits of psychedelics in general,” said Hermida.