In September, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a unanimous resolution to decriminalize psychedelic plants and fungi. It’s just the latest city in a string of West Coast hubs—including Oakland and Santa Cruz—undergoing a seismic shift in drug policy.
Decriminalization doesn’t mean that psychedelics can now be sold in San Francisco—not yet, anyway. But it is the first step towards a future in which substances like psilocybin and mescaline could be legalized. That’s good news not just for recreational users. Recent research shows that psychedelics can benefit those suffering with mental health issues and with opioid and methamphetamine addiction. Some therapists are already licensed to use these plant medicines in their practice, either via microdosing or guided psychedelic therapy.
But just because we have to wait for psychedelic legalization to wend its slow way through the bureaucracy doesn’t mean that all plants with psychoactive properties are out of reach. Professor Seagull’s Smartshop, the first "smart shop" in the U.S., stocks a slew of legal nootropic and psychedelic plants from around the world, most of which you likely never even knew existed.
Sometimes said to have similar effects to THC, wild dagga flowers—a southern African plant from the mint species—offers calming effects and mild euphoria. (Courtesy of @professor_seagulls_smartshop)
Deftly navigating current drug policy, Professor Seagull’s carries natural psychoactive substances that can be legally consumed, like blue lotus flowers and salvia divinorum, as well as those that can only be sold as live plants, seeds, or even as natural T-shirt dye. Everything has a history of use by human civilizations for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
“Nootropics are products intended to increase brain cognition, stimulate neurogenesis, or provide a sense of ‘flow state’ to a person’s work,” says Professor Seagull’s co-owner Benjamin Manton. Among them are plants like kanna, kava, and yerba mate. Blue lotus, a vibrant purple flower has been inducing a sense of euphoria in its users at least as far back as the ancient Egyptians.
“With blue lotus, I have a very pleasant sensation in my body like I was floating in a warm pool,” says Manton. “Others have reported to me giggles and the desire to dance.” More recently, researchers have found that the plant's alkaloids can be used to treat Parkinson’s disease due to its ability to create apomorphine when consumed.
Blue lotus flowers can induce euphoric feelings when taken as a tea, infused in wine, or made into edibles.(Courtesy of O Palsson/CC)
African dream seeds, giant seeds that can grow as large as a human being, is a plant Manton finds particularly interesting. “After consuming it, in about 30 minutes or so you will begin to feel strange,” he explains. “The real magic kicks in, though, when you lay down to sleep. The seed pretty reliably induces lucid dreams, or very vivid dreams.”
Psychedelics, on the other hand, “are used for various purposes, usually revolving around rites of passage, end of life acceptance, rediscovering the awe of existence, and exploring the human condition through art, music, and group events,” Manton explains. Salvia divinorum, one of the psychedelics found at Professor Seagull’s, has effects similar to that of DMT (N-dimethyltryptamine) with fewer visuals, and is still illegal in some states.
“This plant often receives a bad rap from people who tried it in their teens or early 20s,” says Manton. “People often buy a 20x- or 100x-strength at a head shop and smoke it thinking it will be something similar to cannabis, but it really is a powerful psychedelic. We do not sell anything except for the organic leaf so people tend to have a much more pleasant experience than with the extracts people may have encountered.”
While Professor Seagull’s is not yet able to sell psilocybin, mescaline, and ayahuasca, Manton doesn’t need to ingest one of his products to see the writing on the wall.
“As the city and state moves forward with decriminalization and possible legalization, we plan to move in step with them while pushing at their backs to encourage momentum in the right direction,” he says.
With any luck, that will happen before the decade’s out. While a California statewide bill allowing for the possession and personal use of some psychedelics including mushrooms, MDMA, and LSD was gutted earlier this year, San Francisco’s own state senator Scott Weiner has vowed to reintroduce the measure in 2023.
// Professor Seagull’s Smartshop, 1351 Grant Ave. (North Beach), sfsmartshop.com
Professor Seagull's stocks several varieties of Argentinian yerba mate.(Courtesy of @professor_seagulls_smartshop)