Psychedelic mushroom lab uncovered in Rankin
By Chris Togneri
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Police officers looking for a suspect instead found a psychedelic mushroom lab in a Rankin house early Wednesday.
Rankin police Chief Ryan Wooten said his officers were assisting Pittsburgh police at 3 a.m. in an attempt to serve warrants on a suspect staying in a house at 205 Division St.
The suspect was not there, but his housemates gave permission for officers to search the house, police said.
Once inside, they found a room containing what they thought was a methamphetamine lab, Wooten said.
"There were tubings, containers, jars full of whatever," he said. "The officers backed out of the house and contacted hazmat and the health department."
Allegheny County narcotics detectives arrived, searched the home and determined that it was a psychedelic mushroom lab.
They sent the fungi to a crime lab to determine whether the mushrooms contain psilocybin, the hallucinogenic compound in psychedelic mushrooms, known as "magic mushrooms," county police said.
No one was arrested, pending the lab results. Four people were detained and questioned at the house, Wooten said.
Cultivating psilocybin mushrooms is a felony, county police said.
A mushroom lab is not as dangerous to inhabitants, surrounding homes and the environment as a methamphetamine lab, county police said. There are no chemicals and no danger of explosion or contamination in the process of growing and harvesting the fungi.
Police said the home operation included an indoor greenhouse with humidifiers, 51 mason jars with germinating spores, and about an ounce of grown mushrooms drying on a plate in a dehydrator.
County police find people in possession of mushrooms two or three times a year -- usually at or near college campuses -- but they rarely come across a mushroom-growing lab.
Wooten said it was the first time in 15 years he had seen such an operation.
"This is not the backwoods of Kentucky. ... We're used to finding crack cocaine, methamphetamines" and other illegal drug operations, he said.
"This is the first one that I have run across where the enterprisers were growing mushrooms," he said.