Psilocybin-containing mushrooms grow abundantly across all of the continents of the world, aside from Antarctica. But, despite the growing evidence of their beneficial effects, they are mostly illegal—but times are changing. Magic mushrooms may not be legal, but more places are beginning to rethink their policy approach to psychedelic fungi.
“Much of the world is now operating under an ‘ask, don’t tell’ decriminalization model, especially across South and Central America,” says James Bunn, a freelance consultant who works with charity Drug Science and psychedelic lobbying groups. “Canada is slowly moving towards a legal medical model, while US states and cities are decriminalizing,” with Oregon legalizing regulated psilocybin sessions.
Developments are happening apace, he adds. “The Caribbean island chain St Vincent and the Grenadines is poised to be the epicenter of psychedelic innovation. They recognize this new industrious market. They have implemented a quick and reactive regulatory framework for the psychedelic industry to flourish. In 2022, they fully legalized the production, sale, and transport of all naturally occurring psychedelics—though companies will have to work with a small group of state-favored firms.”
Where Are Magic Mushrooms Legal (USA)?
Psilocybin, the primary psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, is still a federally controlled Schedule I drug. Schedule I classification means that, in the eyes of federal regulation, psilocybin mushrooms have no medically accepted use and carry a high potential for abuse. But FDA-approved trials for the designated breakthrough therapy continue apace for use in major depressive disorder and treatment-resistant depression, and psilocybin may be available through doctor’s prescription by 2025. And it’s worth mentioning: it is not an offense for magic mushrooms to grow on your land; it would be impossible to preclude the natural process.
A flurry of local and state initiatives providing layers of either protection or non-prosecution for psilocybin consumers are underway—in part thanks to the direct democracy framework enjoyed in certain parts of the US. Beginning in 2023, magic mushrooms are legal in only one state, with some important caveats.
In 2023, Oregon will allow legal guided sessions with psilocybin and magic mushrooms—the first state in the country to do so. California, New York, and Washington are considering following suit in some form, and several others are decriminalizing after a dozen cities and counties did so to some degree. In November, Colorado will vote on a ballot measure that would legalize regulated therapy and dispensaries while decriminalizing personal use and possession of some psychedelics.
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“The legal status of psilocybin in North America is changing almost every day,” says Bunn. “Decriminalization initiatives are having increasing success, but the only state that has partially legalized is Oregon.” In 2020, the state legalized guided psilocybin experiences via the “Psilocybin Services Act,” which allows adults to partake in psilocybin at licensed centers with a trained facilitator. It will start, Bunn predicts, “in the safest possible way and then I think things will loosen.”
“US decriminalization laws have often been framed in terms of access for therapeutic or medicinal purposes, or in some cases for spiritual or religious uses,” explains Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst at Transform Drug Policy Foundation. “Law reform has focused considerably less on recreational use or non-medical use even though as a proportion of all psychedelics consumed it is the overwhelming majority, so there is still some distance to travel in terms of the criminalization of recreational psychedelic users.”
There are a number of avenues for reform, adds Bunn—whether through ballot initiatives, state and municipal reform, or federal changes to legislation and funding—while a small number of dispensaries, some more visible than others, are opening mostly online in places which have decriminalized. “They’re operating on a ‘let’s see if we get caught’ gray area,” says Bunn. “They’re not legally able to do it but if no one enforces the law, is it a law at all?”
Most psychedelic decriminalization initiatives are taking place on the city level, where city councils have the power to make requests of local law enforcement. In some cases, like in Detroit, city residents have the chance to vote via ballot initiative. Here is the status of magic mushroom decriminalization in the United States, city by city:
San Francisco, CA
In September of 2022, news outlets reported that San Francisco city council unanimously decriminalized psychedelics, including magic mushrooms. That said, it’s not that simple. The resolution “urges” the city’s law enforcement organizations to make the “cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, engaging in practices with, and/or possessing” psilocybin, DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline-bearing cacti “amongst the lowest law enforcement priority for the city.” That said, as of this time, it’s unclear where the the District Attorney’s office, Sheriff’s Office, and Police Department stand on it. In general, it’s important to be critical when looking at resolutions that have “decriminalized” to see how much teeth they have in their jurisdictions.
In May 2019, the city of Denver in Colorado became the first across the US to decriminalize magic mushrooms via Initiated Ordinance 301, a ballot vote after the requisite amount of signatures had been reached. Arrests and prosecutions were already rare, but the move provided further comfort to psychonauts and served as a bellwether moment for the country, providing inspiration for activists elsewhere to further measures to liberalize the laws prohibiting the use of entheogenic fungi.
In June of 2019, shortly after the Denver vote, Oakland city council unanimously and widely decriminalized magic mushrooms and other psychedelics such as peyote, ayahuasca, and iboga following campaigning by Decriminalize Nature Oakland.
Santa Cruz, CA
Santa Cruz soon followed suit on January 28, 2020, when the city council unanimously voted to decriminalize entheogenic plants and fungi, making them the lowest priority for local law enforcement and stipulating that councilors will not provide funding or use city resources toward the arrests or investigations related to naturally occurring entheogens for adults 21 and older.
Washington DC also passed a measure to decriminalize shrooms and other psychedelics in November 2020 via DC Initiative 81. The initiative passed with 76 percent of the vote and was backed by Decriminalize Nature DC with financial contributions from David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s Soaps. Like other decriminalization initiatives, natural psychedelics are to remain among law enforcement’s lowest priorities.
In October of 2021, the Seattle city council unanimously passed a resolution to make “the investigation, arrest, and prosecution of anyone engaging in entheogen-related activities” among the city’s “lowest enforcement priorities.” Decriminalize Nature Seattle lobbied the city council for the changes. It became the largest city to decriminalize psychedelics.
On the other side of the country, Detroit also passed a similar measure in November of 2021, with 61 percent of voters approving ballot Proposal E. The proposal decriminalized entheogenic plants and fungi, making them among the lowest priorities for law enforcement.
Port Townsend, WA
On December 20, 2021, Port Townsend city council passed Resolution 21-088, a decriminalization initiative modeled after Seattle’s decriminalization measures, passed by the Seattle city council earlier that year. Port Townsend City Attorney Heidi Greenwood articulated that the city’s resolution included suggestions made by the Port Townsend Psychedelic Society, which had lobbied the council for over two years.
Somerville, Easthampton, Northampton, and Cambridge, MA
Four Massachusetts cities have functionally decriminalized psilocybin mushrooms and many other entheogenic plants and fungi. The Somerville city council voted to decriminalize natural entheogens in January of 2021. Cambridge followed suit a few weeks later in February. Northampton city council voted to decriminalize in April of the same year. Easthampton city council voted to decriminalize in October.
Two advocacy groups, Bay Staters for Natural Medicine and Decriminalize Nature Massachusetts, have lobbied city councils within the state. Pursuing arrests and cases related to entheogenic plants and fungi is now among law enforcement’s lowest priorities.
Magic mushroom decriminalization can also happen at the county level in the United States, where county prosecutors hold the power to decide whether or not local courts will bring psilocybin offenses to trial. However, at the time of writing, only one county has officially decriminalized magic mushrooms.
Washtenaw County, MI
The city council of Ann Arbor, Michigan—Washtenaw County’s largest city unanimously passed a resolution to decriminalize the non-commercial use and cultivation of entheogenic plants and fungi in September 2020.
The police department said it was already a low priority, and the county Prosecutor’s Office later issued a directive saying related offenses—apart from driving while tripping—were its lowest priority. “It is the policy of the Prosecutor’s Office not to prosecute entheogenic plant use, growth, and possession across Washtenaw County,” it said.
“Prosecuting entheogenic-plant use or possession is not in the interest of justice. Naturally occurring entheogenic plants are not generally addictive, nor do they present a significant risk of a fatal overdose. Entheogenic plants, moreover, are not associated with violent behavior. Just the opposite: the use of psilocybin mushrooms has been associated with reduced partner violence in men.”
While the majority of magic mushroom decriminalization initiatives have been city-level ordinances, some states are budging toward limited forms of magic mushroom legalization, decriminalization, and other forms of reform, like easing barriers to research. Apart from Oregon, Colorado is the only state with an impending psilocybin services bill in front of voters. Colorado’s proposed policy will create a legal framework for guided psilocybin sessions.
“I’m cautiously optimistic: there’s a number of things that could go wrong, but I do think that the momentum behind psychedelics is so substantial that there’s virtually no way they’re not going to enter the mainstream,” says Jon Dennis, an attorney and entrepreneur who has been closely involved in developments in Oregon. “The gold standard is a diverse ecosystem where people understand that psychedelics can fit into people’s lives in a lot of different ways that can be beneficial. To not necessarily push this too swiftly into the medical box is one of my big hopes. In addition to this FDA medical access model, I hope that we also keep religious and community-based access models that don’t necessarily have to be centered around pathology or neurosis, but for spiritual exploration and growth.”
In 2020, Oregon legalized guided psilocybin sessions. Measure 109 allows anyone above the age of 21 to take psilocybin in a licensed service center with a trained facilitator. To qualify as a trained facilitator, a person must be a high-school graduate and participate in a state-approved educational program. The Oregon Health Authority will begin issuing licenses for service centers in January 2023.
Also in 2020, Oregon voters also decriminalized personal possession of up to 12 grams of psilocybin mushrooms via ballot Measure 110. Those found in possession of controlled substances can be issued a citation and subject to a maximum $100 fine, which can be dropped if a person follows through with a drug screening assessment. Additionally, officers are required to pass out information on a drug treatment screening hotline, though there is no obligation to enter treatment. Cultivation, sales, and gifting, however, could still land people in significant trouble. Oregon’s Measure 110 also decriminalized the possession of small amounts of other controlled substances and created a state-based funding mechanism for drug treatment services.
In November of 2022, voters across the mountainous state could vote to green-light regulated access to psilocybin sessions. There’s active debate unfolding in the state as to whether the Natural Medicine Health Act, which will appear before voters, is the best step forward. In addition to legalizing psilocybin sessions, it opens the door for legal therapy with other psychedelics and includes a decriminalization stipulation. Advocates say regulated access is important on a state level while opponents say the authors of the measure didn’t take local stakeholders into account and doesn’t center decriminalization and equity. Denver, the state capital, has already decriminalized.
The state legislature last year made Texas the first US state to fund a psychedelic medicine trial to assess the use of psilocybin to ease post-traumatic stress disorder among war veterans. But it did not decriminalize the use of magic mushrooms.
Countries Where Magic Mushrooms are Legal—Sort Of
At the time of writing, the United States and Canada are perhaps the most active when it comes to changes in the legal status of magic mushrooms. Yet, hopefuls may be able to access psilocybin and other entheogenic plants in other countries, where retreat centers and “smart shops” fuel psychedelic tourism.
“There are no barriers to drug decriminalization under international law,” says Rolles. “Generally in domestic law enforcement, psychedelics such as magic mushrooms are a relatively low priority already, so the jump to formal or informal decriminalization of psychedelics is relatively small in practical and political terms.”
In the United States, he says, this low priority has made it “relatively easy” to “move towards quasi-decriminalization of psychedelic plants.” Yet, other countries have taken different approaches. The Netherlands, for example, allows the legal sale of magic truffles. Meanwhile, in Mexico, the possession of psilocybin mushrooms is illegal, yet is tolerated in some circumstances.
Two towns in Mexico—San Jose del Pacifico and Huautla de Jimenez—are known for their availability of magic mushrooms. That said, people with an ancestral tie to mushrooms in this region say it’s incredibly important for tourists to approach the medicine with reverence and to be mindful of how foraging in the region impacts the supply for locals. If you’re going to Mexico in search of mushrooms, we highly encourage you, first, to familiarize yourself with the history of mushrooms in the region and to support locally-run organizations such as Esperenza Mazateca. You can also help preserve the biocultural diversity of ancestral plant medicines by engaging with Grow Medicine.
Retreats can also be found throughout the country, even while magic mushrooms remain illegal. If you’re looking for a trusted psilocybin retreat in Mexico, we recommend Buena Vida. There are question marks over whether there is de facto decriminalization in certain parts or if the law is merely unenforced. In some areas, there are rumors that drug cartels have begun selling magic mushrooms and controlling their supply.
Recent policy amendments have notably allowed for both psilocybin and MDMA to be accessed through a compassionate access scheme—a version of which is being blocked in the US by the DEA. More than ten people had been prescribed psilocybin in Canada, mostly following official exemptions for medical psilocybin products through its special access program or under exemptions authorizing possession of psilocybin this year after regulators softened restrictions and this is set to grow even though a number of serious bureaucratic hurdles remain.
In October 2022, the Canadian province of Alberta—population 4.3 million—became the first in the country to regulate psychedelic-assisted therapy. “Alberta’s new regulations would require medical directors to apply for a license before treating patients with psychedelics for mental health disorders,” CBC reported. “A psychiatrist would have to oversee any treatment, according to the regulations taking effect in January 2023. Health professionals could not charge money for the drugs, and a qualified professional must only give patients the drug at a medical facility – unless the person is in palliative care.”
Meanwhile, dispensaries have been popping up in Ontario and British Columbia—geared toward a recreational market, and appear to be operating unhindered. “We have enough research. If we fought this in court, we would win,” a Toronto based-lawyer supporting one business told VICE. “We could clearly establish that it’s safe and that it is effective.”
Holland has tolerated the recreational sale of magic truffles—clusters of hardened mycelium that grow beneath some species of magic mushrooms—for years. However, it prohibited the sale and cultivation of shrooms in 2008. Although psilocybin mushrooms were once legal to purchase from “smart shops,” the country later outlawed them as it sought to clamp down on “unpredictable and therefore risky behavior” which can arise from psilocybin use in certain settings. Truffle sales are legal.
Yet, although magic truffles are sold recreationally, medical access to psilocybin therapy is still controversial. One company recently faced issues when they hired a psychotherapist and were perceived to be developing a medical model. Magic mushroom retreats are however common and openly advertised. If you’re interested in doing psilocybin therapy in the Netherlands, we recommend Synthesis.
Just a decade ago, people could receive the death sentence for cannabis in Thailand. Now, officials in the Southeast Asian country are exploring psilocybin reform after the creation of government schemes for cannabis industries. Despite Thailand’s historically strict drug laws, since the 1980s, all manner of magic mushroom-laced foods and drinks were available in certain eateries on the mainland and some islands—even while it remains illegal. It is similar in Laos, Cambodia, and Burma.
St Vincent and Grenadines
The Caribbean island chain is probably the place in the world where magic mushrooms are most legal. In October 2020, the government fully legalized the production and transport of all psychedelics, as well as treatment and research. The Medicinal Wellness Feasibility Study is expected to go on for up to 30 months and will include “cultivation, research, processing, and prescription of psychedelic plant-based compounds including psilocybin, ibogaine, peyote, ketamine, dimethyltryptamine, ayahuasca and sassafras.” Then, it seems there will be further changes to allow the nascent activities to continue.
Jamaica is already home to many psychedelic retreats, and the Beckley Foundation offers psilocybin retreats on the Caribbean island. The University of West Indies has partnered with Field Trip Health on a psilocybin research and cultivation facility there. Cultivation is also underway on a significant commercial scale. In Jamaica, psilocybin was never referenced in anti-drug laws due to it never being popular. However, ministers have sought to style the country as a psychedelic wellness destination.