Cannabis versus magic mushrooms

Published Apr 28, 2020 12:00 p.m. ET
iStock / José Antonio Luque Olmedo

The whole world seems to be relaxing its opinion of recreational drugs in general, but this trend is especially prevalent with both cannabis and magic mushrooms. As time passes, we are uncovering troves of new and useful information that seems to suggest many different ways that both of these nature-based drugs can be of assistance in the field of medicine, and that is the primary driver behind this shift in perspective that is taking the globe by storm.

Luckily, many regions and countries have successfully enacted laws to protect cannabis consumers from charges and discrimination, but psychedelic mushrooms are still lagging behind, and from what some of the experts are saying, they could truly hold the key to a better quality of life for thousands of people all around the world. That’s a large part of what makes this topic so important in the coming days, but there aren’t quite enough voices to push the movement to the forefront of politician's agendas.

A lot of the hesitation stems from a sheer lack of understanding, and that’s pretty understandable considering that it wasn’t long ago that smoking a cannabis joint almost anywhere would still get you arrested. However, there are some similarities and differences between the two drugs, and since so many still know very little about magic mushrooms, we’re here to show you what they are, and how they compare to cannabis.

The difference in appearances

Cannabis and shrooms both come from the ground, and both are harvested from plants that remain relatively small overall, but there are some big differences as far as the athletics of each plant species is concerned. Shrooms are fungi, and just like any regular table or wild mushrooms, the entire thing is harvested and used in the process of getting high. Psilocybin mushrooms usually only stand a few inches tall, and even once they’re dried and ready to consume, they still greatly resemble the plant that they came from, only a little bit shriveled.

Cannabis plants, on the other hand, get much taller, and they grow and mature more like smaller fruit or vegetable bearing plants, reaching an average of between 4-6 feet high. For this drug to be thoroughly enjoyed, it needs to be harvested with care, as the most condensed cannabinoid production occurs in only the flowers of the plant, and those are the elements that will get you stoned. Hence the reason why the bags of dry cannabis products do not at all resemble the plants themselves, as it is only a small portion of the plant materials total.

Effects of cannabis

Since every person will indulge at a different pace, have a slightly different rate of cannabinoid absorption, and even an entirely different reaction than the last even if they were to use the same kind and amount of a cannabis product, it is completely impossible to say for sure how smoking a joint or tossing back some edibles might make you feel. However, we do know that there are some common effects that you could potentially experience if you were to indulge in cannabis.

Another important thing to note is that unlike psychedelic mushrooms, the numbers cannabis strains are in the thousands, and each one contains a unique combination of elements like terpenes or cannabinoids, which all work together to get you stoned. That is why some weed strains are recommended for nighttime consumption, and others are advertised as motivational or uplifting, and it’s also largely the reason behind such a wide range of possible effects.

For the most part, the effects of cannabis are relatively mild, especially when they’re compared to those that are experienced with shrooms, but that truly depends on their potency and some of the other factors we mentioned before. However, the majority of cannabis consumers never endure psychedelic or out of body sensations, and instead report extreme bouts of relaxation, inspiration, motivation, and even focus.

Cannabis is a drug that can continue to impact a consumer for different periods of time, and this depends on the method of ingestion used. For example, smoking weed can incredibly short-lived its effects, with some studies suggesting a mere 30 minutes before the cannabinoids begin to wear off, but edibles, which are absorbed through the stomach like mushrooms rather than the lungs, can continue to last for up to 12 hours.

Most would agree that cannabis is more frequently used as a way to reconnect or engage comfortably within this reality, rather than taking you off to another one, and that is because unlike psilocybin, THC is a much less potent drug cannabinoid that seems to interact with the human body more gently. This is likely why there are fewer reports on average of bad experiences with cannabis than there is with shrooms, despite the vast availability of the herb versus mushroom caps.

Effects of psilocybin

In the same way that so many consumers report a slightly different experience when it comes to smoking weed, psychedelic mushrooms can have effects that vary, so it is difficult to say for certain what you will feel when you take them, but there are some pretty common sensations that have been reported by those who have taken them.

Some consumers who use psychedelic mushrooms will get so high that they can hallucinate or see things much differently than they normally would with a clear head, while others claim that shrooms can take them to a whole other place of relaxation, and for a few, the effects are so minimal that they are hardly worth describing at all.

Though these descriptions might remind you of something that you would expect to get from cannabis, psilocybin is by far a much more intense and psychoactive drug that has led to some people doing crazy things, like running from creatures that do not exist or balling up in a fit of anxiety that is absolutely impossible to stop without waiting it out.

However, it is also considered to be an incredible way to connect with forces that are larger than us like nature, our deepest thoughts, and desires, or even god, and regardless of how real the experience may or may not be, it’s something that has been used for generations to treat conditions similar to those we see with cannabis. It is also widely touted as a natural way to bring about an inner peace, which we now know may translate to benefits for those with mental illness.

One of the biggest things that most people don’t know about mushrooms is that they can continue to affect you for several hours without letting up at all, and that is believed to be a large part of why some report adverse experiences because they simply don’t expect such an intense feeling that goes on for hours, when most other recreational options like cannabis or alcohol, start to wear off as quickly as they kick in.

Prices are similar

Much like cannabis, mushrooms have long remained an illicit drug in most of the world, and both today are spread mainly through black market providers who have long-established price points that are quite close to each other. Both cannabis and psychedelic mushrooms fetch an average of $10.00 per gram, with prices even lower when purchasing in bulk quantities, but the latter is much more challenging to find for consumers.

Which one is safer?

As much as there is still plenty to learn about psilocybin, we know enough to recognize that it can offer a great number of benefits to both medicinal and recreational consumers, and that is especially true when you take into consideration the long term effects of less nature-based options. However, the one thing that so few wants to talk about is the fact that these incredibly powerful creations have a major downfall, and it’s that they’re filled with poison, which is the part that gets you high.

That means that it is entirely possible and even probable that you could overdose on psilocybin if you eat too much, or if it isn’t cured correctly, and that puts consumers who are buying untested and unregulated products at significant risk of overdose. So, while we cannot deny the lure of the enticing psychedelic mushroom, we do know that at least for now, cannabis is the much safer option of the two.

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