Magic mushrooms, scientifically known as psilocybin mushrooms, may be illegal in the UK, however, a number of countries and states afford them a legal status or have decriminalised them. Despite this, the style of legalisation in each jurisdiction differs depending on the specifics of the legislation, with some places only allowing their therapeutic use, and others extending to full recreational use. To make matters easier, we’ve broken down the legality of magic mushrooms across the world.
🇺🇲 Oregon 🇺🇲
In November 2020, Oregon became the first US state to legalise the use of psilocybin under Measure 109. The measure passed with 55.75% of the vote and provided the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) with the power to licence and regulate the manufacturing, transporting, delivery and sale of psilocybin, as well as psilocybin services.
However, it’s important not to jump the gun when it comes to Oregon’s shroom laws. The therapeutic use of psilocybin was made legal under the state’s rules, whilst the recreational use of magic mushrooms remains illegal but decriminalised (for personal possession of up to 12g).
This means that anyone over 21 in Oregon is able to access psilocybin-assisted therapy within state-regulated centres, under the guidance of licensed facilitators. Patients accessing the service don’t need a prescription or referral from their healthcare provider. However, prospective patients do have to complete a preparation session and meet the criteria to continue with treatment.
To acquire a licence, facilitators have to complete a minimum of 120 hour training and 40 hours of hands-on experience from a state-approved program. Guidance from the OHA requires that the training curriculum covers a number of key modules, including:
- Historical, traditional and contemporary practices and applications
- Cultural equity in relation to psilocybin services
- Safety, ethics and responsibilities
- Psilocybin pharmacology, neuroscience and clinical research
- Core facilitation skills
- Preparation and orientation
- Group facilitation
With the first treatment centre having received their licence earlier this month, patients should be able to access psychedelic-assisted therapy in the state from the summer.
Despite the excitement at the prospect of legal access to psilocybin within the United States, some have warned that treatment will be prohibitively costly, with low dose sessions starting at $1,800, moving up to $3,500 for high doses.
Despite psilocybin itself being relatively inexpensive, the most costly part of the service appears to be the therapy that accompanies the session.
From 1st July 2023, psilocybin will be legal in Australia for certain purposes. In February, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) announced that it would allow medicines containing MDMA or psilocybin to be prescribed by authorised psychiatrists for specific mental health indications.
However, access for psychiatrists and patients is set to be strict. If a GP feels that psilocybin-assisted therapy is appropriate then they can refer their patient to a psychiatrist who is an authorised prescriber. Currently, patients will only be able to access psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression.
To prescribe psilocybin, psychiatrists will need approval from both a human research ethics committee and the TGA. Following approval, psychiatrists will need to supervise the patient when they take psilocybin, and this must be in a clinical setting.
Unfortunately, similar to Oregon, accessing psilocybin-assisted therapy in Australia is likely to be expensive. Treatment is set to cost around AUD $25,000-$35,000 (£13,500-£19,000), with the cost of psilocybin itself estimated at AUD $1,000-$2,000. This has been attributed to the fact that the TGA has yet to approve any products that contain psilocybin or MDMA, meaning that psychiatrists will have to source and supply the unapproved medicines themselves.
In Nepal psilocybin mushrooms are classed as an ‘uncontrolled substance’, meaning their possession, sale, and supply is fully legal. Despite this, the country hasn’t created a commercial mushroom market, and so psilocybin isn’t sold in shops. Instead, mushrooms are cultivated and sold via informal markets.
The sale, possession and consumption of magic mushrooms is legal in the Bahamas, and the island contains a range of health and wellness retreats. However, psilocybin and psilocin is illegal under the United Nations Convention on Narcotic Drugs, of which the Bahamas is a signatory.
When it comes to magic mushrooms, Brazil’s laws are very interesting. The country’s legislation states that psilocybin and psilocin are illegal, but this only extends to the molecule itself and not the mushrooms containing the molecule. As well as this, the country has no recorded arrests for the consumption, possession or cultivation of magic mushrooms.
This means that mushrooms are openly sold and consumed throughout Brazil, although this often takes the form of informal markets, similar to Nepal.
🇻🇬British Virgin Islands🇻🇬
It is legal to possess and consume magic mushrooms where they naturally grow within the British Virgin Islands. Their sale is illegal, although this is largely unenforced and many businesses openly sell them.
In Canada psilocybin remains an illegal schedule III substance, which means that it is illegal to possess, produce or obtain without an exemption or a licence. However, the Canadian government has introduced provisions to allow individuals to access psilocybin through a Special Access Program (SAP). This allows access to substances that are yet to be approved, but may be helpful in specific instances.
This means that individuals in Canada may be able to legally access psilocybin-assisted treatments in cases where conditions are treatment-resistant or where conventional treatments are unavailable or unsuitable. However, there must be sufficient evidence for the drug requested and the drug must have good availability.
Despite this strict and specific route of access, the recreational psilocybin market in Canada has been doing well. Multiple ‘dispensaries’ that openly sell magic mushrooms have popped up across the country, with little interference from the criminal justice system.
Jamaica has been praised for being one of the most open countries in the world to psilocybin and psychedelics more broadly. Although the substance has never been explicitly legalised or decriminalised, legislation allows for the traditional and religious use of magic mushrooms. Mushrooms are openly cultivated, distributed and consumed, and the island has become a popular destination for psychedelic retreats.
The Netherlands are well known for their relaxed laws when it comes to drug regulation, namely cannabis and mushrooms. Psilocybin mushrooms have been illegal since 2008. However, a loophole in the law means that psilocybin truffles, the fruiting body of the fungus, are legal to possess and sell. Therefore, ‘magic truffles’ are openly sold in ‘smart shops’ across the country and there is a growing psychedelic therapy scene.
Magic mushrooms are sold openly in shops across Thailand and their consumption is popular amongst tourists. However, psilocybin is actually illegal and classed as a category 5 narcotic. Despite this, in 2022 the Thai government announced that they would be exploring the legalisation of psilocybin mushrooms for medicinal purposes.
🇻🇨St. Vincent and the Grenadines🇻🇨
This Caribbean island has also been praised for its open attitude towards psychedelics. In 2020, the government legalised the production and transport of all psychedelics, including psilocybin, alongside treatment and research. In March 2022, the first licence to produce psychedelic compounds was given to Med Plant Science.
Austria decriminalised the personal possession and consumption of psilocybin mushrooms in 2016. Cultivation is permitted as long as the mushrooms aren’t harvested, although transport and sale remain illegal.
Czechia decriminalised possession of small quantities of psilocybin mushrooms for personal use in 2009. According to the legislation, an individual may have up to ‘40 pieces’ on their person, and if caught in possession up to this amount will face a misdemeanour rather than a criminal record.
In November 2022 Colorado voted to decriminalise a number of psychedelics, including psilocybin. This allows for the use of psilocybin under supervision at state regulated healing centres, and also permits personal possession and cultivation. However, distribution and sale are still prohibited. Although the vote passed in 2022, the initiative isn’t set to come into force until 2024.
Portugal decriminalised the possession of small amounts of all drugs, including psilocybin in 2001, becoming the first country to do so. If caught in possession, an individual will not face criminal sanctions, but will instead be sent to an administrative panel which may recommend drug treatment and support services.
Magic mushrooms are partially decriminalised in Spain, meaning that cultivation and possession for personal use is allowed. However, it is illegal to sell and distribute mushrooms and penalties for possession in a public place and supply include imprisonment and a fine.
Legalisation news and advancements
Although many countries are yet to legalise or decriminalise psilocybin, there are a few jurisdictions where this may soon be on the cards.
In the UK, psilocybin is currently a class A, schedule 1 controlled drug – meaning that recreational use is prohibited and that it isn’t deemed to have medical value. Therefore, it is difficult to explore psiloycbin’s therapeutic uses due to expensive and time consuming regulatory barriers. Despite this, campaigners have been working towards rescheduling the drug, so that scientists may fully explore its applications, namely to mental health.
Optimism is brewing that the UK government may take notice and act on this, most recently with the parliamentary debate on access to psilocybin treatments. The debate enjoyed cross-party support from MPs, and it is hoped with events like this taking place, the UK government may finally be considering relaxing its harsh stance on psilocybin.
Across the pond, there are several states to look out for when it comes to the decriminalisation/legalisation of psilocybin.
In Connecticut, a bill to decriminalise the possession of psilocybin has recently passed in the House of Representatives and is moving onto the Senate. Under the legislation possession would be punishable with a fine, rather than a criminal record, and those found guilty three times would be referred to drug education services.
Similarly, in California a bill to legalise the possession of psychedelics has also made its way to the Senate, after being allowed to skip the committee stage. If passed, the bill would allow for the possession of certain amounts of psychedelics such as DMT, ibogaine, mescaline and psilocybin. However, ‘synthetic’ psychedelics such as MDMA and LSD would remain illegal.
This piece was written by Volteface Content and Media Officer Megan Townsend. She is particularly interested in the reform of drug legislation, subcultural drug use and harm reduction initiatives. She also has an MA in Criminology from Birmingham City University. Tweets @megant2799.