Psilocybin is an active psychotropic compound found in mushrooms of the Psilocybe genus, frequently called “magic mushrooms” or “shrooms.” The genus comprises over 200 mushroom species that grow naturally on every continent, except Antarctica. These mushrooms are among the most commonly known and universally recognized psychedelics. Despite promising research showing their safety and efficacy as treatments for psychological conditions, and their long history of use by indigenous peoples, psilocybin-containing mushrooms are illegal in a majority of countries.
But, there are a few legal loopholes, depending on the country. Psilocybin, the molecule, and psilocybin-containing fungi are not synonymous in the eyes of the law. Prohibition of psilocybin began with the UN 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, a meeting of the United Nations in Vienna that aimed to suppress the rising popularity of many psychedelics, like psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, and mescaline. (Note, the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961 banned many psychoactive substances including cannabis, but it took another decade before psychedelics were restricted.)
The convention made psilocybin a Schedule I substance, meaning it’s considered a serious risk to public health, with no therapeutic value. But it neglected to define the legality of Psilocybe mycelium (a mushroom’s root network) or spores, which contain low levels of psilocybin. This was likely an oversight. But this oversight created a loophole allowing people to legally order spores, while allowing other businesses in certain countries, like the Netherlands, to legally sell mycelial clumps, or magic truffles. The treaty also included Article 32, a clause allowing countries to exempt certain traditional indigenous uses of psychedelic plants from prohibition.
The treaty left the prosecution of these substances up to national governments, all of which pushed their societal standards of drugs on the people. Authoritarian governments, like China and Iran, sentence people to death if they are found guilty of possessing psychedelics. Other governments, like Portugal and the Netherlands, subsequently decriminalized personal possession. The numerous discrepancies between local and international laws have become a convoluted mess. But, really, the climate has changed so much in the past decade, a total reclassification of psilocybin may be in order.
Until then, we devised a list of psilocybin’s legal statuses around the world, so you can make your next travel arrangements accordingly. Just kidding. But we do think it will help you make informed decisions and assessments about the world at-large, and various countries’ relationship to psilocybin.
The United States
The US follows the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, which lists psilocybin the molecule and psilocybin-containing mushrooms as Schedule I substances. That means they’re considered drugs with high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use, and extremely unsafe even under medical supervision.
It is legal in New Mexico to purchase Psilocybe spores and grow shrooms, however. There is even a recognized religious organization, the Oratory of Mystical Sacraments, that legally uses psilocybin-containing mushrooms in ceremony.
Recently, several high-profile initiatives proposing various forms of decriminalization have rocked the city level, including Denver, Oakland, Chicago, and Santa Cruz. Note, most cities passed ordinances or resolutions that make the persecution of individuals who possess or consume entheogenic plants among the lowest priority for police. This is slightly different from full-scale decriminalization, which Denver voters did pass by 1 percent; while measures in Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Chicago passed through city council votes. Still, all are major milestones in the fight for the awareness and acceptance of psychedelics.
In cities that recently passed reform laws, it is still illegal to possess (and sell) shrooms. In Denver, however, it is now law enforcement’s lowest priority to enforce these policies, and city authorities cannot use resources to prosecute minor crimes related to psilocybin. This is still different from legalization, though.
In Oakland’s policy, city law enforcement is required to completely cease investigations and prosecutions of anyone in possession of psychedelic mushrooms and peyote, the sacred mescaline-containing cacti.
Chicago, the largest city to introduce psilocybin reform, implemented a resolution that makes prosecution for shroom-related crimes the lowest priority for local law enforcement. In many ways, it mirrors Denver’s model. Unlike Denver, however, this measure passed unanimously with all 50 city council members voting in favor of the resolution. And also unlike Denver, the policy is a city ordinance, and not de jure decriminalization passed by voters.
Santa Cruz is the latest city to introduce a decriminalization resolution. It is still illegal to possess, use, or cultivate naturally occurring psychedelics, though city law enforcement has redirected resources from investigations, arrests, and prosecution, just like Oakland’s model. Notably, Santa Cruz city council specified that this resolution only applies to personal use, and that anyone found in possession of a “commercial” amount of psilocybin mushrooms will be subject to severe federal penalties, due to psilocybin’s classification as a Schedule I narcotic.
While these four progressive cities are leading the movement for psychedelics reform, activists in over 100 additional localities have also initiated similar measures. Just remember that it’s still technically illegal to possess mushrooms in all states. Penalties can range from fines and probation to severe financial penalties and jail time. Draconian laws and years of War on Drugs misinformation campaign aside, it’s estimated that nearly 30 million Americans use psychedelics.
Canada’s psilocybin laws are mostly congruent with the UN Psychotropic Substances Act. Canada’s version classifies the substance as a Schedule III drug, which is defined as posing some risks to public health in some situations. Therefore, penalties for shroom-related crimes are lesser in Canada than the US. It’s legal to purchase spores, pre-inoculated grow kits, and pick fresh mushrooms found in nature. Keep in mind that it’s illegal to possess dried mushrooms, however.
Laissez-faire law enforcement has actually spurred the creation of many Canadian businesses offering magic mushrooms online in various forms, from chocolates and candies, to mushroom tea and liquid psilocybin extracts. The low enforcement priority is a clause in the Canadian Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (Section 56 [J]), which exempts substances from illegality for the purpose of research, clinical trials, or if medically necessary. This clause was cited during a keystone legal battle that ultimately set the precedent for cannabis decriminalization and legalization in Canada.
So, why doesn’t this clause apply to shrooms? A group of therapists from Thera-Psil are on it. They have appealed to Health Canada to exempt psilocybin from prohibition for those with a medical condition, and plan to take Health Canada to court if their appeal is rejected.
The United Kingdom
The British Misuse of Drugs Act is consistent with the UN Psychotropic Substances Act in regards to psilocybin, placing it in the most restrictive category — Class A — along with methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin. This designation is considered “absurd” by many, including Bristol University professor Matthew Hickman, an expert on drug deaths who believes that politics, and the need to adhere to UN rules rather than scientific data, are responsible for the restrictive classification.
Up until 2005, the sale of Psilocybe mushroom mycelium and spores was fully legal in the UK. This all changed in a 2005 amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act that made possession, sale, and cultivation of Psilocybe fungus illegal. The UK now has more restrictive laws and stiff penalties for hallucinogens than most other countries — up to seven years in prison for possession and up to life in prison for amounts that qualify for intent to distribute.
Although all drugs are technically illegal in the Netherlands, the Dutch are world-renowned for their more logical, research-based, and tolerant policies on psychoactive substances. They classified mind-altering substances in two categories: either “hard drugs,” such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine; or “soft drugs,” like cannabis, peyote, salvia, and psilocybin mushrooms — until 2008, that is.
Psilocybin mushrooms were reclassified as a “hard drug” in 2008, despite much protest from the public. This designation does not extend to mycelium or spores, however. Many “smart shops,” as they’re called in the country, specialize in ethnobotanical and entheogenic products and act as the beneficiaries of these loopholes. Some examples of these entheogenic products: magic truffles, psilocybin mushroom spores, inoculated grow kits, liquid peyote extracts, and chemical variants of psychedelic molecules like 1P-LSD, which bears a chemical structure close enough to elicit effects similar to LSD, but is different enough to be technically legal.
In the Netherlands, similar to countries where psilocybin-containing products are legal such as Jamaica and the British Virgin Islands, there is also a thriving industry built around psychedelic retreats. These retreats offer customers a psychedelic experience in a relaxing and therapeutic setting, often under the guidance of a professional therapist. Interestingly, many of these companies (at least in the Netherlands) operate on a sliding scale, charging different amounts based on income to allow access to their services to a broader range of customers.
The psilocybin molecule, along with all forms of Psilocybe fungi, are technically illegal in Mexico. But authorities often turn a blind eye to psilocybin possession for personal use. Exceptions are made (thanks to Article 32 of the Psychotropic Substances Act) for numerous indigenous tribes who employ the use of mushrooms and peyote in religious rites and ceremonies.
A flourishing industry around psychedelic retreats has existed in Mexico since the ‘60s. This psychedelic tourism is likely the result of an article published in LIFE in the late ‘50s by R. Gordon Wasson, who is credited with introducing psilocybin to the Western world by way of Maria Sabina, a now iconic Mazatec shaman.
People of all ages, races, and economic classes travel to Mexico to experience traditional indigenous psilocybin ceremonies. It’s hosted by shamans who claim that ceremonies “heal the heart” and invoke positive changes in behavior and outlook. Interestingly these claims are congruent with the results of numerous scientifically rigorous studies. One double-blind study at Johns Hopkins University showed that 80 percent of participants suffering from depression or anxiety enjoyed considerable relief for up to six months from just one dose of psilocybin.
Austria decriminalized the possession of psilocybin mushrooms in January 2016. Offenders caught in possession of personal amounts undergo free therapy instead of a trial. Cultivation is technically legal, as long as the mushrooms are not intended for commercial distribution or consumption. Grow kits and spores can be legally purchased, but the sale and possession of large amounts of dried mushrooms are still illegal.
The psilocybin molecule is technically illegal in Brazil, likely due to forced adherence to UN policies. But psilocybin mushrooms, along with other psychedelic substances, like ayahuasca, are legal to possess, cultivate, and distribute.
Brazil has some of the most tolerant policies in the world in regard to controlled substances, after fierce legal battles were fought in the early ‘90s over the rights of indigenous people to conduct ayahuasca ceremonies. Many of the same legal precedents set around ayahuasca apply to psilocybin, too. It’s not surprising, considering shrooms also have a rich history of indigenous use in Brazil — ever heard of the “Amazonian” mushroom strain? Currently, it is both easy and (relatively) safe to buy shrooms in Brazil, with a majority of sales taking place through specialized websites.
The British Virgin Islands
Although the British Virgin Islands are still classified as a “British Overseas Territory,” and, for the most part, are subject to the legal policies of the UK, psilocybin laws are much more relaxed in the BVI. The psilocybin molecule is technically illegal there, but naturally growing Psilocybe mushrooms are legal to pick and possess. And, several species can be found in BVI in abundance.
The sale and cultivation of shrooms for commercial purposes is prohibited, however. But, laws are loosely enforced, and shrooms are openly sold throughout the country such as at smaller islands like Tortola. This little island is famous for its psychedelic full-moon parties and is quickly building a reputation as a psychedelic tourism destination.
Jamaica is one of the few countries in the world where both psilocybin (the molecule) and Psilocybe mushrooms are fully legal to cultivate, possess, and sell. This policy has undoubtedly contributed to the thriving tourism industry of the island, and there are several businesses offering world-renowned psychedelic retreats that are excellently complemented by the beauty of the island and its relaxing atmosphere.
Cambodia is a prime destination for ethnobotanists, people who study plants or fungi for religious uses, and mycologists, those who study mushrooms. Several species of Psilocybe were first documented in this South Asian nation, and some of the largest psychedelic mushrooms on record have been found growing here. Despite their natural occurrence Psilocybe mushrooms (and the psilocybin molecule) are illegal in Cambodia. Penalties are much less severe than neighboring Thailand, as people can allegedly avoid charges through bribing officers — or so they say.
It is easy for tourists to obtain mushrooms (along with many other drugs) via roadside vendors, markets, and bars. If you are traveling in Cambodia (and bear the obvious hallmarks of a tourist) it is likely you’ll be offered drugs, and if they’re not trying to set you up in some way, it’s likely shrooms will be among the substances offered. The most popular form of sale and consumption in Cambodia are “trippy shakes” that offer physical refreshment, mental rejuvenation, and relaxation — in a picturesque, tropical setting no less!
The Czech Republic
The psilocybin molecule is illegal in the Czech Republic. But, Psilocybe mushrooms are decriminalized and cultivation is allowed for personal use. Depending on the circumstances, minor offenders may be required to attend addiction therapy classes, while jail time is reserved for the possession of large quantities with the intent to distribute.
The psilocybin compound and dried Psilocybe mushrooms are illegal in Iceland, as part of the nation’s required adherence to UN policies. Like many countries where certain species of mushrooms grow naturally, like Psilocybe semilanceata, picking and possessing fresh mushrooms is allowed. During the fall season (September-October) it is common to see Icelanders take advantage of this policy and pick mushrooms from the roadside, mulched garden beds, and fertile landscaped areas where they grow.
The psilocybin compound and Psilocybe mushrooms are both illegal in India. But, the country’s rapid population growth, combined with a lack of communications infrastructure and low law enforcement resources, have resulted in police departments, particularly in rural areas and smaller cities, not knowing shrooms are prohibited. Law enforcement is also typically unable to identify or confirm if a mushroom contains psilocybin. In certain areas of the country (such as Vattakanal and Kerala), shrooms are quite prevalent and easy to obtain either online, or through cab drivers, markets, and roadside vendors.
The psilocybin molecule and Psilocybe mushrooms are illegal in Israel when intended for consumption. But spores and grow kits are legal for research purposes. Israel has recently become a world leader in exploring the medical applications of psychedelics. It was the first nation to approve an MDMA therapy program aimed at treating PTSD, which affects over 10 percent of the population, likely due to mandatory military service and the serious conflict in the Middle East. Scientists in Israel are also exploring the safety and efficacy of psilocybin as a treatment for a broad range of conditions — from depression to anxiety — through its ego-dampening effects.
The psilocybin compound is illegal in Italy, consistent with UN policy. Psilocybe mushrooms, on the other hand, are decriminalized. Although the mushrooms are decriminalized, potential administrative sanctions, such as the loss of your driver’s license or required therapy or counseling, is applied to those caught with shrooms. Grow kits and spores are legal to buy, sell, and possess, however.
Psilocybin and Psilocybe mushrooms are illegal in Laos. Laws are loosely enforced if caught possessing small amounts. But, severe penalties — as in, life in prison or execution — can happen if one is caught with large amounts. So, if you’re charged with intent to sell, Laos has laws similar to Thailand (see below). Mushrooms can be found growing naturally in abundance, however, and are often sold to tourists in either dried or “shake” form.
Portugal effectively decriminalized the possession of all drugs in 2001. Penalties still exist for the production and distribution of psilocybin mushrooms, and individuals caught with personal amounts may be required to undergo rehabilitation or therapy. Individuals charged with continued offenses can face criminal penalties, though enforcement is minimal.
Currently, psilocybin and Psilocybe mushrooms are legal in Samoa. Unfortunately, there are government plans to make both illegal.
Psilocybin is illegal in Spain. But, the personal possession and consumption of Psilocybe mushrooms is decriminalized. The cultivation and sale of mushrooms is still illegal and punishable with prison time. The legality of spores and grow kits is ambiguous and prosecution is dependent on law enforcement’s ability to prove intent.
Although mushrooms are technically illegal, their use is quite popular in certain areas of the country, like Barcelona and the island of Ibiza, which is a mecca for recreational drug use. There are also multiple organizations in Spain offering psychedelic retreats.
Prior to 2017, the Thai legal structure automatically assumed that anyone caught with shrooms had intent to distribute, and therefore enforced extremely harsh penalties, including the death penalty. Thankfully, these laws were amended in 2017, and a new drug classification was put in place.
Naturally occuring drugs like cannabis, kratom, and psilocybin mushrooms were changed to Category 5 where lighter penalties are applied, such as fines or short prison sentences. Drugs like cocaine and heroin, which are in Category 2, still bear the penalty of death or life in prison.
Although mushrooms are illegal, they are extremely prevalent in Thailand, with vendors on certain islands like Koh Samui and Koh Phangan selling “happy shakes,” or shroom milkshakes and fruit smoothies. The proprietors of many bars, shops, and markets throughout Thailand will often offer cannabis and mushrooms to tourists before the customer even has the chance to ask!