Were I to start this story from the beginning it would precede my birth. So, let’s pick up where things get interesting.
Sitting in the office of Magnificent Mushrooms, my gourmet mushroom farm, smoking my after lunch bowl three state troopers and three city police enter with guns drawn and a warrant for search and seizure. They had me on weed, green handed as it were. I had literally just exhaled when the officers entered the premises. But that’s not what they were looking for. I knew they were coming, just not sure when.
You see two nights prior, I had held a private psilocybin session for one female and two male friends. My then girlfriend, now wife was there as well. This was not uncommon. I held space for individuals dozens of times before on my farm. The woman in question, or at the center of this controversy, had requested a mushroom session to try and work through her anxiety and habitual lying. We all dosed, as was usual, and still is in my practice. Though different from now, we all dosed with fresh mushrooms.
I was a cultivator. At any given time I had from five to fifteen types of mushrooms fruiting in specialized environments. The grow houses were specifically designed for shiitake, lion’s mane, oyster, reishi, pioppino and more. My bedroom however had been modified to support a variety of Psilocybe cubensis that I had developed and lovingly called ‘Mr. E’. It was a hybrid of several different strains that after growing together in an outdoor bed I cloned a particular specimen with unique characteristics. But let’s not get into the mycological nerdery too much here.
We all ate, she (let’s call her Ms. E) ate the equivalent of about two dry grams, but again they were fresh. For those of you who don’t know, fresh psilocybin mushrooms possess psilocybin and psilocin. Psilocybin processes into psilocin and is actually what causes the effect on consciousness. Psilocin is not heat stable and typically doesn’t survive the drying process, therefore fresh mushrooms are stronger and come on faster. More nerdery.
As the mushroom came on, the group silenced naturally as is typical. The deep introspection generally causes consumers to focus more on the internal than the external. However, this was not the case for our female participant. She became more talkative and quite honestly very annoying to the entire group. No one was very enthusiastic about hearing talk about television programs, or pets at that point.There were bigger fish to fry. For her too, but it was obvious that the experience, and her own mind, was overwhelming her and she felt the compulsion to verbalize rather than internalize. My wife gently informed Ms. E that if she were silent she would get much more out of the experience. After about three minutes of silence Ms. E grew more and more uneasy, eventually asking if she could go to her tent about ten yards from the camp fire.
Assuming that she merely needed some time alone, and acknowledging that the tent was easily in eye sight I gave her permission to seek solace in perhaps a more ‘protective’ space. However, less than twenty minutes later, much to my horrified surprise red tail lights were blazing down the long gravel drive that led away from our isolated house upon a hill. As the tracers burned into my eyes, my heart sank and panic swept in.
How had she left?? We had her car keys in the house on our bar. (Only later in the police report did we find that she had a key magnetized under the bumper of her car.) How did she get to the car without me seeing?? (Again according to the police report she crawled on hands and knees 100 yards to the car.) And most terrifying of all, and a thought that still causes symptoms of PTSD will she die or kill others if she makes it to the main road. From the vantage point of the hill we could see her tail lights make their way all the way down our 1/3 mile drive and then another half mile down the country road that led to the highway.
There simply are no words for the terror that I felt in that moment. Prison. Murder charges, never to see my family again. Other families to lose members. If I give myself over to the experience I can still find myself breaking out in sweat and in panicked pacing. It was without a doubt the single most frightening moment of my life. And it lasted for hours. We called her, texted her, prayed as a group. We considered driving to find her but we were all so swept over by the mushroom that we knew it would throw more variables for disaster into the mix. So we prayed. We breathed together. We feared for our lives (this was my particular fear as the administrator of the fungus).
Ms. E lived over an hour away from our farm. There was simply no way she could make it home unscathed. We were only about an hour into the experience, the peak was still at least another hour off. Driving on mushrooms is next to impossible. Don’t do it. Ever.
We continued to call to no avail. At five a.m. when I was able to safely drive, my wife and I got into the car and began driving the hour and a half toward Ms. E’s house. We never saw a sign of her, of a wreck, nothing. When we got to Louisville we drove around the area passing by places she frequented. Coffee shops, friends houses. We called friends to try and gain certainty that she was safe. Nothing. Nothing at all.
Then at five p.m. twelve hours after we had left the house on our ‘woman hunt’, we got a text from Ms. E. “I’m fine, I just need some time alone.” That was it. My wife tried to find out her mental state, where she was, where she had gone. Nothing, no reply to the original message. She was alive. The relief was palpable, like an ocean breeze after days of still sweltering air. We decided to eat. We had nothing all day, driving, not stopping longer than it took us to knock on a few doors or run into a coffee shop and peek around. As we sat there eating tacos my wife and I agreed that I would stop supplying shrooms to the masses, for certainly that is what brought this on. It was karmic retribution from the mushrooms themselves.
After finishing our meal we made the hour drive back home with a huge weight lifted from our shoulders. Until began making the trip up our driveway. The one and only neighbor we had on over 150 acres of land was bush hogging the field (mowing with a tractor for you city folk). As we drew closer to him, he turned the tractor off of the field and toward the drive. Dismounting the still running tractor he walked over to the car with something of a satisfied grin.
“Sheriff was just here looking for ya. Said you guys had a mushroom party that went bad and they arrested some girl who drove off and ran her car into a ditch.”
The air went still, my stomach did a few flips and jolted towards my throat. All I could hear was my heart pounding against the background of tractor’s diesel engine grinding in its rhythmic machine pulse. My wife and I looked at each other, the terror had returned. Prison still awaits.
“Ok” was all I said. He was clearly enjoying the sight of me caught in the headlights of oncoming disaster. We sped up the hill toward the house. It was around seven p.m. by then. A bonfire was in order and a bonfire we did have. Farming in general but gourmet mushrooms particularly are challenging to make a viable income from unless you are producing a thousand pounds per week or more. Psilocybin had supplemented more than my neuro-chemistry.
Now please understand, I have never been an ‘outlaw’. I haven’t had a speeding ticket in over seven years as I sit writing this. I have a Master’s in Education and a deep passion for working with minority students and my personal work with psilocybin has always been to help others improve their quality of life, even that night with Ms. E. I didn’t start growing psilocybin to sell, my previous wife begged me to. Struggling as we were to make ends meet on the mushroom farm, she connected me with her family and friends who were large scale Marijuana movers. “They can sell mushrooms” she said. Ironically enough she left me when I began the MycoMeditations project, sighting that I was an embarrassment to her and her family, yea the family of drug dealers….anyway.
Reluctantly I did the deed. And I did it well. My knowledge of mushroom cultivation in general and the equipment that I owned for commercial growing allowed me to scale my personal psilocybin production rapidly. I developed my personal strain and began producing en mass, some of the highest quality psilocybin mushrooms one could find. The substrate mixture and the environmental tweeks produced very large, very potent cubensis. Despite trying to remain anonymous, my work spoke for itself and as the primary myco-preneur in the surrounding three states, it didn’t take long for people to guess where all of these newly available beautiful ‘shrooms’ were coming from.
And, I burned it all….all but one pound of dried mushrooms that I was certain could be safely tucked away in the forest behind my house. Sixty-five acres of hardwoods, that I lovingly cared for, managed trails, played in with my kids, and picked hundreds of pounds of chanterelles, chickens and hens from. This bag of mushrooms was tucked safely so I thought into a hollow log with my bongs and other pot paraphernalia. The house had been meticulously cleaned and every other bit of evidence was burned.
We slept easy for two nights, knowing that when the cops came, and we knew they would, there would be nothing to find.
Then came July 1, 2015. Where we began this story. Guns, warrants, badges and dogs.
“Search the place” I said. “I’ll give you a guided tour.”
Nothing to see in the grow rooms. The police I will say were polite and friendly. They were quite amazed at the gourmet production.
“We don’t want to be here.” One cop said. “We have never thought you a threat to the community. Had someone not given us specific information on illegal activity we wouldn’t be here at all.”
Regardless, here they were, in full regalia and now they were headed to the house. Still, I was relatively unconcerned. Like I said, we had cleaned up. The place was spotless. We walked the long drive from the grow rooms and office to the house idly chatting about gourmet mushrooms, their immune boosting and nutritional properties, the process of growing mushrooms and the restaurants I served.
We were held on the porch, watched over by a young state trooper who asked my wife and I what the effects of psilocybin were, why people used it. He was genuinely intrigued. The head investigator, who was specially appointed by the Indiana State police department as a the ‘chief drug task force’ officer remarked how surprised he was to not have even found any evidence of Cannabis. Perhaps it was my dreadlocks that I wore at the time as a devoted Rasta, or perhaps it was the common occurrence of marijuana found in almost any routine police search. It was obvious to him that we had cleaned things quite well in the preceding hours. Regardless, nothing was found. I was about to wipe my brow as they left undoubtedly disappointed from the farm.
“I know he’s growing some weed out in those woods.’ One particularly snide officer said. “And I’m gonna go find it.”
Confident that he would not find any ganja plants, as there were none to find, I watched him disappear down the trail. A notion of panic resurfaced but was easily dismissed. He didn’t take the dog, in fact the K-9 stayed in the truck the whole time. Officers told us that he would probably do damage to the house so they left him in.
Much to my surprise and to my unutterable disappointment the ganja hunting officer returned. Not with cannabis, but with my bag of mushrooms. Now he was happy. The frustrated furrow in his brow had morphed into a gleeful grin across his smug face.
“Thought you were going to get away didn’t you.”
Then came what was the most chilling moment of my life thus far. Handcuffs were placed around my wrist and I was read ‘my rights’. This moment is still as disturbing as it is ironic, that my ‘rights’ do not include the ability to possess naturally occurring plants or alter my sovereign consciousness for whatever purpose I damn well please. And the ‘State’ has the ‘Right’ to put me in a cage for doing so. Preposterous.
Within thirty minutes I found myself in a 10×15 cage with a large glass window that put me on display like a deranged animal found harassing the public. I cried. I absolutely and unashamedly cried in fear and embarrassment. My children, my mother, my girlfriend’s parents. My life was ruined. I had gone from never once having been arrested or questioned for illegal activity to being charged with three ‘B’ felonies. The police told me that the only thing I could have done worse, according to the law, was kill someone. Growing and consuming psilocybin mushrooms was only surpassed by murder.
In the small town where I lived this soon became well known news. My bond was set at $40,000 and I was being purported as a ‘cult leader’. I later found out that Ms. E, had told the police that she had come to our property for one of the mushroom ceremonies that I commonly performed. And that was that.My years of service to individuals with various issues and needs was wrapped up nicely in a box that was labelled ‘Cult Leader’.
Fortunately I was housed with some of societies truly outstanding criminals. There were men who had robbed and assaulted for heroin and methamphetamine. There were people who robbed for pleasure and thrill. There were men who had beaten their wive’s nearly to death. And I, a grower of mushrooms had been convicted of a crime that far surpassed any deeds that they had committed heretofore.
The week that I spent behind bars could be a blog of its own. Some of the highlights though were nearly having my face smashed in by a gentleman who misunderstood what I said, I was informed by the ‘culinary department’ that my story was all over the news from Indianapolis to Louisville, actually seeing the story about my arrest on the news in the jail cell, witnessing my first and please dear God,
only, jailhouse tattoo and possibly most pleasantly being told; by the large bald man who at one time desired to pound my face flat, not to take a shower barefoot because inmates would routinely ‘shit and cum’ in the shower that we all used.This week that felt like months passed eventually by and on one rainy Tuesday morning I was brought to the courthouse in a striped jumpsuit and chains around both my ankles and wrists before a judge who didn’t know me as different from any of my stripe clad companions. Again, the dreadlocks were not playing into my favor.
Fortunately through the convincing of my lawyer, whom I had never met before and only spoke to over the jailhouse phone once, my bond had earlier that week been reduced to $10,000. My week behind bars afforded me another $5,000 off of this price tag for my own bed to sleep in. I had $3,000. My parents came with the other $2,000. I had neither lived lavishly, nor made very much money from ANY of my mushroom sales, illicit or otherwise. Meanwhile as I sat in jail, my gourmet farm was under the occasional care of a couple of friends who had my interest and the business’s at heart. My father, delivered a few rounds of mushrooms to clients but by all means my business suffered enormously. Mushrooms require constant monitoring and the slightest environmental change can damage or destroy entire crops.
The following day or later that day, honestly it is still a blur, the funds were gathered and my clothes returned. I was taken to my home to find my beloved dog Smokey one day away from being taken to the pound by the very neighbor who informed me of the Sheriff’s visit. I had fed his horses numerous times when he was on vacation and fed his small dog that was often left at home for a week or more while he was at his girlfriend’s, and my dog, my only companion at that point, was only a few hours from being taken to the pound by this same individual. THAT really gets my goat.
The next day I was instructed to meet my probation officer and receive my ‘monitor’. By this I mean ankle bracelet. I was placed on house arrest and curfew for eight weeks. My children, then six and nine, would innocently ask me questions about the device. The oldest was visibly upset more often than not. When we spoke to each other from my jail calls, we both cried. He had looked up my police report and newspaper articles about me while I was in jail. He couldn’t believe his father was a ‘criminal’. Tears still well up in my eyes over these conversations. Still to this day I feel like the real injustice was served to them. They more than myself were the victims of the insanity of current drug laws.
And where you might ask was my girlfriend, now wife at this time? Adding insult to injury the court had required that we be kept separate for the eight weeks until sentencing. When the police came, we were together, and she lived there with me. We were, according to their official documents, ‘co-conspirators’. We could have no contact until the court approved.
So there I was, isolated on 87 acres surrounded only by Amish and a neighbor who had intended on taking my dog to the pound. Incapable of going more than fifty feet from my bedroom after 6pm, only to see my children twice per week and without my beloved. The eight weeks of house arrest counted double time in my probationary sentence but it was well worth twice that much. I smoked cigarette after cigarette. I ate little food and cried many times each day. As I awaited the sentencing my mind raced as to what the possible outcomes could be. The minimum recommended sentence was ten years for each charge and there were three. Possession, Manufacturing and Distributing a Schedule 1 substance. All but a handful of friends had stopped returning my calls. The only visitors that I had were two local individuals who wanted to express their sympathy.
All of the people I had sold or given (and there were many, many people that I had freely given mushroom to) shed like the peeling skin of a shag bark hickory. I even had one long term and what I thought very close friend, with considerable wealth who had reaped much benefit working with me personally from the mushrooms, who after asking my wife how he could be of help to me, did absolutely nothing when she suggested contacting my lawyer or possibly throwing in a bit of change. Even the $10,000 that my legal fees cost would have been a pittance to him.
Beautifully, and in this dark time renewing my faith in humanity, a Japanese friend of mine, who I can truly say is one of my three truest friends, sent money to assist me. We had become very good friends when he was an exchange student at my high school. After fifteen years of disconnect we re-discovered each other over Facebook, and several years manhunt in 2012. The day that I received a reply to one of the several ‘Yutakas’ whom I had emailed is still one of the most joyful days of my life. He is truly a Samurai.
And really, truly, it wasn’t the money that proved or disproved friendship to me. It was those who remained caring, who weren’t afraid to reach out and express their concern and compassion that illustrated what a true friend is. Those individuals and there were a handful, mean more to me than all of the money combined that the wealthy chiropractor neighbor, who would have given my dog to the pound or the fifteen year friend with loads in his trust fund and false concern could have done for me.
Eventually however, the eight weeks did pass and at my sentencing the prosecutor was willing to drop all of the mushroom related charges and stick me with ‘only’ a Class D felony of “Maintaining a Common Nuisance” and misdemeanor charges of Cannabis possession (they did find my bongs and a small bag of weed with the mushrooms). I was given two and one half years probation with six months of that served as time in jail and under house arrest.
My landlord kicked me off of the property and I lost my gourmet farm. I had to return to my life as a line cook as my Master’s Degree was altogether negated. The love of my life and I were finally reunited and there was no bracelet around my ankle. One step forward and two steps back. My love’s parents had accepted me back into the fold, likely solely based on the fact that their daughter refused to deny her love for me.
Now many would have certainly been deterred by these events from working with psilocybin. Many would have misappropriated the blame and held the mushrooms at fault. This was a stance I was not willing to take. Rather, after consulting my attorney, I doubled down on my relationship with psilocybin and took my work public with MycoMeditations and PLEDG INC. I am firmly convinced that this was an initiation. A call from the mushroom to come out of the shadows and bring my skills to more of those in need. The past two years has confirmed this belief. I have been able to assist people from around the world with our work in Jamaica. I am contacted frequently by former guests who want to share with me their stories of ongoing success. PLEDG is still developing. As a non-profit advocacy group it somehow seems less tangible to the public at large, though I am confident that this too will change.
After reflecting on this over the past two years, I have come to several conclusion. First and foremost the mushrooms are not to blame. Not for my arrest, nor for Ms. E taking flight on that fateful night. Neither am I to blame for her actions. I am responsible for growing mushrooms, I am responsible for giving her mushrooms and I believe still that she is personally responsible for her the choice she made. Likewise though, I do not hold her responsible for my outcomes.
That’s not to say an apology from her wouldn’t be nice. The consequences for our mutual actions had long reaching impact likely for the most part on myself and my family. I have seen her since that night in public, she came to the restaurant where I was working, sat right at the chef bar. I made her food and handed it to her. Full of jitters but consciously meditating forgiveness and compassion. “Here you are ma’am.” I said as I slid the plate between myself and her on the bar. She looked up and instead of salad swallowed her tongue, turned pale and ran out without taking a bite of food.
Trust me when I say this did not give me one bit of satisfaction. She came to me for help and it is only that which I want to give. I still have concerns for her psychological well-being. You see the primary risk in psilocybin work is that the consumer will run from the experience, either mentally or physically. My main advice is always, “Stay put, go with the experience.” Running, whether internally or externally is almost a sure way to exacerbate the symptoms that you hope to alleviate in a psilocybin session. I am certain she has not resolved what she came to address, and I am nearly certain the condition is rather worse.
Most surprisingly though what I gained from the experience and what I have come to believe played the majority role in bringing about this cascade of events was that the damaging relationship that I had with Cannabis has been managed. I was wholeheartedly an every day, all day smoker. I knew the cops were coming and I STILL sat at my desk and smoke a bowl without concern. Mushrooms had told me on several occasions that I needed to address my relationship with cannabis, and I ignored it until I no longer could. July 1st was the last time in two years since I have smoked ganja.
Make no mistake I will smoke again, and as this is my first day off of probation, I will likely smoke today. I am looking forward to it, but I am also looking forward to being in control of my use rather than having it be in control over me. I take full responsibility that my irresponsible behavior, primarily with Cannabis led to this chain of events.
Looking back, the gains are beginning to outweigh the losses. Once I am confident the MycoMeditations has stability and staying power then I will feel 100% sure that the risk was worth the reward. Even still, if I were to stop doing this important work today, the lessons learned from compassion and forgiveness for those who threw me to the wolves or neglected to be of aid when they could to a changed relationship with marijuana and the seventy plus lives who have been changed through MycoMeditations, makes it impossible to say it wasn’t worthwhile.
The last thing that cannot go without mentioning is how these past two years have impacted my relationship first and foremost with my wife, but also my children, my parents, my in-laws and the true friends who came through all of this with me.
One cannot put a price on freedom, though limited it may be. The ability to drive to my in-laws twenty minutes away and watch them play with their grandchild, to see my eight year old score in soccer, or to take my oldest son with me to Jamaica is more valuable than anything that those freedoms could be risked for. This lesson I have learned into the marrow of my bones.
My wife, for my wife there are not enough words, not enough tears, not enough kisses or back rubs or diapers changed that can express how much I value her.
She has been an outstanding beacon of hope. When I have been in the depths of despair over the loss of my employment opportunities, or how my children may view me after these events, she has continued to remind me of the importance of my work with MycoMeditations and how important it is for my sons to see a father who is courageous and unwavering in his determination.
She has reminded me that I am strong and that I am not the societal degenerate the being a ‘D felon, Common Nuisance”makes me out to be. She has been without a moment’s hesitations my best friend and my inspiration. I would be lying if I said I didn’t contemplate suicide when threatened with 30 years in prison. It was thoughts of her and my children that kept me hanging on. There were shotguns in my house. It was a very, very real thought. Beyond embarrassed, beyond hopeless, it was pure and simple the darkest days of my life thus far, and hopefully ever.
It is with great joy that I leave behind this dark phase of my life and it is with great optimism as I move forward humbled, and emboldened to be of service to other with the skills and lessons that I have gained from the mushroom. With this load lightened I know that I can be of even greater assistance to those whom the mushroom sends my way.