In Brazil, there have been no instances of an individual being punished for the consumption, cultivation, or possession of magic mushrooms.
As we are in the midst of a psychedelic renaissance, we may be moving towards a different world—if the legal status of psychedelics catches up with the promising research.
The war on drugs has lasted for decades, yet researchers and policy-makers are more aware that the use of psychedelics can be hugely beneficial for mental health. Unnecessarily restricting the use of these substances is changing somewhat, but this varies from country to country.
So, where in the world can you legally use psychedelic substances? In this article, we’ll explore five countries' legal attitudes towards psychedelics.
The Dutch are known for their laissez-faire attitude towards drugs. There are over 200 coffeeshops that sell cannabis (sort of) legally in Amsterdam alone, with many more dotted across the country. This tolerant approach has also applied to psychedelic mushrooms.
Up until 2008, you could walk into a ‘smart shop’ in the Netherlands, and purchase any form of psilocybin mushrooms. However, after the unfortunate death of a tourist who was on a cocktail of psychoactive substances, the Dutch government banned the sale and use of fresh psilocybin-containing mushrooms. However, a loophole appeared, meaning that ‘magic truffles’ remain decriminalised. Truffles are formed through the bundling of mycelial strands under the soil, and were therefore not categorised as mushrooms. To this day, you are still able to purchase ‘magic truffles’ in ‘smart shops’ all across the Netherlands.
This small Caribbean island is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the US, and is becoming more well known for its psilocybin mushroom retreats. The psychedelic fungi are legally grown and sold in Jamaica, allowing for their legal consumption at retreats. Earlier this year, Mydecine, a company dedicated to researching and developing psychedelic compounds for mental health treatments, also announced that a large amount of psilocybin mushrooms were being cultivated and exported to their research facilities in Canada.
The United States
The US is, of course, notoriously known for spearheading the War on Drugs, due to the widespread use of psychedelics in the 1960s. The infamous 1971 UN convention on psychotropic substances led to psychedelics like LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline being classified as compounds “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” As more and more research highlights the strong medical potential of psychedelics, as well as their low potential for abuse, the next few years may see more and more cities decriminalizing psychedelics.
The use of psilocybin-mushrooms was famously decriminalized in 2019 in Denver, Colorado. This meant that, while psilocybin remains illegal in Colorado, the city of Denver is prohibited to use any of its spending resources on prosecuting citizens for the possession and/or use of psilocybin-containing mushrooms. Shortly after this, the cities of Oakland, Santa Cruz, Washington DC, Somerville, and Cambridge followed suit in 2019 and 2020. Oregon also passed legislation in 2020 to make it the first state that both decriminalized psilocybin, and legalized it for therapeutic use.
In addition to this, Native Americans may also be exempt from prosecution when using peyote cactus for religious and spiritual purposes. This occurred after a long legal battle, where Native Americans declared that any ban on psychoactive substances would obstruct their ability to practice their religion.
Following the legalization of psychedelic mushrooms in Oregon in 2020, Canada legally permitted some patients to use psilocybin in palliative care and to treat severe depression. Mona Strelaeff, the first non-palliative woman to be granted such permission, told Vice, “I have struggled with anxiety, depression, and addiction for years…During my psilocybin therapy I went deep, way back to when I was a little girl and all those things [unresolved trauma] that happened to me.” However, despite this exemption, the use of psychedelic mushrooms remains illegal outside therapeutic uses.
Ketamine, another psychedelic-like substance, has also been approved for mental health treatment in Canada. The substance may be administered, either through a nasal spray or through an IV-dose, and can be combined with psychotherapy treatment.
Situated in much of the amazonian basin, where ayahuasca ceremonies flourish, Brazil legally permits the consumption of the powerful psychedelic brew. The DMT-containing psychedelic substance was formally legalized in 1992, after a legal battle between the União do Vegetal, a religious society based in Brazil, and the government. After an investigation, the government found that ayahuasca-using members of the church were more productive in their communities than the average citizens, which led to its legalization.
Brazil is also host to another peculiar legal loophole regarding psychedelics. While the isolated component of psilocybin is illegal, psychedelic fungi which contain the psychoactive compound are actually legal. There have been no instances of an individual being punished for the consumption, cultivation, or possession of magic mushrooms.
The war on drugs in the US has really been a tight one but the courage from Denver has definitely made other states to start thinking towards the direction of legalizing psychedelics