“Do you have Penis Envy?”
“Yes, I have albino Penis Envy.”
This was an actual conversation that took place inside what used to be Divas, a San Francisco club that catered to transgender women. For the last few months, the former three-story venue on Post Street near Polk Street is now a windowless house of worship called the Living Church, which is dedicated to helping people acquire magic mushrooms.
Penis Envy is a type of mushroom, one of the 180 or so that contain psychoactive chemicals. As with indica and sativa, the two main categories of cannabis, mushrooms’ effects can be configured by cross-breeding. With the right strain and at the right dose, some help you go on a quest of spiritual self-exploration, oblivious to the passage of time, while others will just have you and your friends laughing at everything, mesmerized by the motion of wind through the trees. And while they’re technically illegal, you can easily obtain some by donating to the Living Church, where “prices” for what’s referred to as sacrament lack dollar signs, but mostly everything is in the range of $20 to $60.
It’s never been easier to buy magic mushroom chocolates, tinctures and other edibles over the counter, in fact. Such products have been available in Oakland for well over a year already, but The Standard did a quick survey on both sides of the bay and found that many—but by no means all—smoke shops have products containing shrooms, sometimes mixed in with non-psychoactive varieties for a little wellness boost.
You don’t even have to pay cash. Living Church offers a way to tithe via an app.
Times are changing. San Francisco passed a resolution last year that urged local law enforcement to deprioritize the investigation and arrest of adult users of naturally occurring psychedelic substances like psilocybin. More recently, SB 58, state Sen. Scott Wiener’s bill that would decriminalize the use and possession of mushrooms in early 2025—along with DMT and ibogaine—has been passed by the California Legislature and awaits Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature.
Notably, it’s not a full-scale legalization, as sales are still banned, and unlike California cannabis regulations, it contains no provisions for monitoring quality or purity.
“We’re laser-focused on making the case to the Governor that SB 58 is good policy, with broad support, and that it deserves his signature,” Wiener’s office told The Standard in a statement. “Our coalition of veterans, first responders, health care professionals and former law enforcement officers are conveying to the Governor the critical importance of these substances in helping people heal and get their lives back.”
For its part, the San Francisco Police Department said its enforcement focus continues to be on meth and opioids like fentanyl.
“The SFPD currently does not prioritize the enforcement of psychedelics, but will continue to take law enforcement action, when appropriate,” spokesperson Kathryn Winters said.
In the meantime, you don’t even need to go to church to get some mushrooms. A worker at a cannabis dispensary near the Living Church said smoke shops around Lower Polk Street carry certain brands. As with so many other things in life, though, it’s caveat emptor: It’s possible to buy the packaging online and slap it on an ordinary chocolate bar.
Mushroom products exist in a legal limbo now, and that’s where they will remain, untaxed and untested. Wiener’s decriminalization bill, which again does not legalize the sale of any substance, doesn’t address quality control—either to determine how much constitutes a “dose” or whether these products even contain any psychoactive compounds at all.
Venturing to the most obvious neighborhood in the city to hunt for quasi-illegal drugs—that would be the Haight—The Standard found that some smoke shops stock jars of homemade marshmallows dosed with psilocybin, while others want nothing to do with it.
If you want the best stuff, though, the East Bay still wins. The Standard found a smoke shop with no pretensions to religion on San Pablo Avenue near where Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville meet. A friendly proprietor fanned out an array of four or five $50 chocolate bars in various flavors. He was even good enough to give his own recommendations, and we walked out with an artisanal-looking, $50 Galaxy Labs bar wrapped in gold foil like a key to Willy Wonka’s factory.
“Ancient Medicine for the People,” its somewhat verbose label reads, touting mushrooms’ powers through fuzzy buzzwords like “synergistically.” There’s even a bonus Mandalorian reference—“This Is the Way”—juxtaposed with the warning to keep the bar away from children and pets.
A search for the ostensibly California-based Galaxy Labs yields odd results, because there are a lot of companies with that name, including a veterinary diagnostics firm, a woke-sounding VR manufacturer and Wisconsin’s No. 1 premium supplement retailer. Instagram has what you’re looking for—nominally, at least. Amid @galaxylabscalifornia’s admittedly wondrous images of mushroom spores glowing under ultraviolet light, there’s not a link to be found.
Follow a handful of mushroom-centric Instagram accounts, and you’ll attract the attention of fly-by-night spammers with appeals to “legalize nature” and promises of discreet shipping. The times haven’t changed completely, though. Reached for comment over Instagram, the Living Church replied, “We are not interested in press.”
Unlike East Oakland’s more established Zide Door church, which was famously raided by police in 2020 for its mushroom sacraments and has recently opened a second location in SoMa, the Living Church doesn’t have metal detectors. There, spiritual guidance comes in the form of a Vibrant Minds honey nut granola bar, sold in the kind of vaguely Space Age packaging that cannabis edibles come in—evoking Honey Nut Cheerios, bee and all.
As sacraments go, psychedelic mushrooms are more intense than the average Communion wafer. Even at lower doses, eating psychoactive mushrooms on their own often causes a bit of nausea. It used to be that you had to have a friend with rudimentary ganache-making skills and a confectionery mold take homegrown shrooms and encase them in chocolatey goodness.
Now you can walk into a shop filled with pipes and ask for Galaxy Labs’ 72% cacao bar containing 24 segments of 150 milligrams each.
That’s a lot. Consume half the bar, and you’ll be tripping hard. Eat 16 pieces, and you’ll enter “a wormhole straight to Uranus,” as the label suggestively puts it.
As with the availability of cannabis in 2010, before California legalized recreational use, it can feel like sellers are begging for a SWAT team to rappel in through the skylight. At least, never before in human history has anyone seemed to flaunt penis envy.
Astrid Kane can be reached at email@example.com