Mushroom cloud

David Melendez

Photo by SAMI EDGE

At 17, David Melendez is McQueen High School’s resident expert on magic mushrooms—and he is determined to make them legal. To Melendez, the classification of psilocybes is not only a needless restriction on a harmless substance, but also a roadblock to medical therapy.

Tell me a little bit about what you want to accomplish.

I feel like there are just so many negative connotations about drugs and the counterculture that it brings with it because there are so many manmade drugs out there. But psilocybin and mushrooms have been around for centuries. I just really think that if people look deeper into it and see what a profound experience it is and see how it can help [people], there would be a big change and people would understand a lot more about the world we live in and how we connect to other people.

Explain to me what exactly these mushrooms do.

Psilocybin is a chemical that’s found in certain types of mushrooms and those are known as “magic mushrooms.” Those give you a hallucinogenic trip. But, what most people find is that it’s more than just hallucinations. It’s a finding of yourself and an experience where you delve deeper into your person. I think that’s what people don’t see. They just see it as a drug.

What’s your argument for legalizing magic mushrooms?

Hallucinogenic mushrooms in the United States are completely illegal. I fight for the legalization of psilocybin for use with terminally ill cancer patients. What I see with a lot of terminally ill cancer patients is that they’re just flooded with an amount of opiates that people have prescribed to them. When I talk to people and they talk to me about drugs, I tell them like, with opiates, you can’t tell me every single step that was taken to make that pill and you don’t know what you’re putting into your body. You can name the name of it. Perhaps you might not even be able to pronounce it. I can tell you what process a mushroom’s been through from the vulva collapsing, to the gills coming down, and it’s all natural. I saw some interviews of a terminally ill cancer patient who they administered a dose of psilocybin to, and she said that she felt like she could breathe. She wasn’t muddled through all these opiates. I really feel like you can get into a sense of dependence and then depression when you’re on those pills. It’s like the most terrible way to leave this world. If you’re going to die, then why die dependent on a man-made drug? Psilocybin is not addictive at all and gives you a body high that would get a lot of cancer patients through the pain. It also helps the cancer patients come to terms with the passing through this world because you see interconnectedness in this world.

Are these mushrooms dangerous?

The number one danger is identifying it. For example, Amenita Muscaria, that like the toadstool that everyone sees in Mario, red with the white caps and everything, there’s 200 species of just that mushroom and only three of those are hallucinogenic, but most of them are deadly poisonous. Identifying is hard. The main problem would be that, it is a fungi, so if you’re not taking care of your body while you’re doing it, it can rip up your esophagus if you’re eating too much too soon.

What steps do you plan to take on the path to legalization?

First off, I need to inform people. What people need to see is what they’re doing with opiates that they’re making and giving to civilians. Look at the crime rate because of the drugs—people are high on narcotics that the government is making and giving to our people. But, you don’t see someone be violent on mushrooms. They don’t feel violent, they just want to love. It’s free love pretty much. We have to fight the government. We have to fight for more experimentation with all of it. I think that as a community we need to drop all preconceptions of the mushroom. We need to see that it will do a lot more good than what we’re doing right now, drugs wise.