An Alachua woman with a house full of carefully cultivated mushrooms was arrested Wednesday night on charges of drug possession and sale after authorities needed several trucks to haul off the mushrooms and growing supplies.
Keila Smith, 44, of 15704 NW 140th St., was arrested, said Alachua County Sheriff’s Sgt. Todd Kelly.
“There are multiple, multiple Rubbermaid containers full of small glass dishes with mushrooms growing in them,” Kelly said. “There are at least 1,000 of these containers. It took them four full-size trucks and vehicles to load all of the stuff that they seized from inside her house.”
Kelly said Smith had been under investigation for about three months, following tips from the public. Undercover agents made two controlled buys from her, and lab results tested positive for psilocybin, a chemical that produces a high or hallucinations when ingested.
Authorities with a multi-agency task force went to Smith’s house Wednesday night with a search warrant and found dishes and jars with mushrooms at various stages of growth, Kelly said.
Smith had books on how to grow the mushrooms by creating a damp, warm environment. She would start with petri dishes and gradually move up in container size as the mushrooms grew, Kelly said.
“She was very organized. Very clean, very orderly — it was almost like a lab,” Kelly said. “Detectives don’t believe she had any other means of employment. There were ledgers that were seized that indicate she was making quite a bit of money off of the sale of the mushrooms.”
Kelly added she was known as the “Mushroom Lady” and would sell directly to customers rather than to dealers.
The use of mushrooms for a high grew in the ’60s and ’70s, and people would go hunting in cow pastures for varieties with psilocybin.
Bruce Goldberger, toxicologist and director of the William R. Maples Center for Forensic Medicine at the University of Florida, said the mushrooms people use to get high are not varieties that can cause death.
But Goldberger added that people high on them have died because they put themselves in dangerous situations.
“These aren’t fatal, but they can still get someone into trouble, particularly if they are participating in an activity that will put them at risk, like driving,” Goldberger said. “Psilocybin is a strong psychotropic substance. It’s mind-altering. Many years ago we investigated the death of an individual who ended up walking across Interstate 75 who was killed. He tested positive for psilocybin.”
Kelly said Smith has been charged only for the sale of mushrooms that tested positive. More charges are likely after the seized items are sorted and sent for testing.
By Cindy Swirko
Published: Thursday, July 21, 2011
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Deputies find rooms of shrooms, arrest woman on drug charge