Montreal police on Tuesday raided a store selling illegal magic mushrooms and arrested four people, but a spokesperson for the shop said he expected it to reopen within 24 hours.
The first FunGuyz location in Quebec opened in Montreal Tuesday offering pills, dried fungi and chocolate bars, all containing the psychedelic agent psilocybin, a substance subject to sale and possession bans in Canada.
Hours later, Montreal police confirmed they had launched an operation against the store in the city’s Village neighbourhood, making four arrests.
At the time however, Montreal police spokesperson Jeanne Drouin told Global News it was too soon to confirm whether those arrested were clients, store employees, or the owners.
The store spokesperson, who identified himself as Edgras Goban, described the raid as a “simple” product seizure and “waste of taxpayers’ money.”
FunGuyz, he said, has already been the target of police raids in Ontario, where it has 10 franchises. He said the company has “been through this multiple times before.”
The spokesman has been identified in media reports as the co-owner of Ontario-based FunGuyz stores. Those reports have spelled his name various ways, including “Edgars Gorbans” and “Edgar Gurben.” He refused to say on Tuesday whether he is the owner of the brand, nor would he divulge the identity of the Montreal franchisee.
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Goban said he expected police action at the Montreal location. “We do expect the police to come in and raid us because obviously what we’re doing, it’s illegal,” he said on Tuesday before police descended on the store. “The idea behind everything is, are the police willing to use the taxpayers’ money for mushroom stuff?”
He described FunGuyz as a form of protest to challenge public policy surrounding hallucinogenic drugs, adding that the company planned to open as many as five more locations in Quebec this summer, including a store in the Montreal suburb of Laval that he said was set to open within weeks.
Several customers had managed to purchase products at the Montreal FunGuyz location before the police raid. They included Ahmed Adel, who said he used to go to Amsterdam to consume magic mushrooms.
“When this opened here, it saved me the flight,” he said, dismissing authorities’ warnings about psilocybin.
“I don’t like the police. I don’t deal with the police. I don’t acknowledge the police. I have nothing to do with the police and what they think is totally irrelevant.”
Roman Lebourg was also among FunGuyz’s curious customers Tuesday.
“I was very intrigued and wanted to check it out before it was closed down by authorities,” he said.
Lebourg expressed concern about the content of FunGuyz’s products in the absence of any quality control legislation, in contrast, he said, to quality assurance in Quebec’s government-run cannabis stores.
“This is a whole different can of worms.”
In a statement, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante’s office said that despite the “administration’s strong stance in favour of decriminalizing the simple possession of drugs, and the adoption of a declaration to this effect by the entire city council, the sale of psilocybin remains illegal, and the (police) will continue to enforce the law.”
— With a file from Global News’ Annabelle Olivier