Psilocybin is the active psychotropic compound found in mushrooms of the Psilocybe genus (1), frequently referred to as “Magic Mushrooms” or “Shrooms”. The over 200 species that comprise this genus can be found growing naturally throughout the world on every continent with the exception of Antarctica. These mushrooms are one of the most commonly known and universally recognized psychedelics – substances that induce a profound altered state of consciousness and are beginning to be recognized for their positive effects on overall mental health, and the symptoms of many psychological conditions. Despite the promising research regarding their safety and efficacy as a treatment for psychological conditions and their long (not to mention safe) history of use by indigenous peoples, they are illegal in the majority of countries – with a few notable loopholes.
Psilocybin (the molecule) and Psilocybe Mushrooms are NOT synonymous from a legal perspective. Prohibition of the psilocybin molecule was catalyzed by the UN’s 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances (2), a meeting that aimed to suppress the rising popularity of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin, LSD, and MDMA during the 1960s. The convention placed psilocybin in schedule I, the most restrictive category (defined as having serious risk to public health, with no therapeutic value). However, the convention neglected to precisely define the legality of mushrooms or fungal mycelium containing the substance and included a clause (article 32) (3) allowing nations to exempt certain traditional uses of substances from prohibition.
The convention neglecting to ban both psilocybin and psilocybin-containing mushrooms was perhaps an unintentional oversight and therefore left the decision to prohibit Psilocybe mushrooms up to member countries, many of whom applied differing legal interpretations and did not outrightly ban the mushrooms (although all agreed to prohibit the compound psilocybin). This discrepancy has led to multiple loopholes and a confusing double standard that is in need of clarification and rectification, especially now after promising study results regarding the substance.
This article serves to address these loopholes and provide an overview of the current legal status of psilocybin AND Psilocybe mushrooms worldwide.
The United States
The American Psychotropic Substances act(4) lists psilocybin and psilocybe mushrooms in schedule I (defined as having a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision) however there are notable exceptions. It is legal in most states to purchase Psilocybe mushroom spores (for research and microscopy purposes), and legal to grow Psilocybe mushrooms in New Mexico (there is even a recognized religious group in this state which uses the mushrooms for sacramental purposes). Recently there has been a nationwide push for decriminalization, led by cities such as Denver, Oakland, Chicago, and Santa Cruz which have all decriminalized the picking and personal possession of psilocybe mushrooms and other entheogenic substances (with the cultivation for commercial purpose and sale of these substances remaining illegal). Activists in over 100 additional localities have initiated similar measures, while political figures like Andrew Yang and Alexandria Oscasio-Cortez have also declared support for policy reform around psychedelics.
Canada’s laws around psilocybin (the molecule) are mostly congruent with the UN Psychotropic Substances Act, however, they classify the substance as schedule III (defined as posing some risks to public health in some situations). The legal landscape surrounding Psilocybe mushrooms AND psilocybin in Canada (and most other countries) is somewhat hypocritical, and laws are lightly enforced. It’s legal to purchase spores and pre-inoculated grow kits, but illegal to possess dried mushrooms. Laissez-faire enforcement has spurred the creation of many small businesses offering mushrooms and mushroom-infused products online, with the most publicized case of this being pot activist Dana Larsen’s online Mushroom Dispensary (Larsen is also set to open a storefront in Vancouver Q1 2020). There is also a clause in the Canadian Controlled Drugs and Substances Act(5) (section 55(1) which exempts substances from illegality if medically necessary. A group of therapists in Canada (Thera-psil) have appealed to Health Canada for psilocybin to be exempted from illegality under this clause.
The United Kingdom
British law regarding the molecule psilocybin is consistent with the UN Psychotropic substances act, however, up until 2005 the possession and even sale of Psilocybe mushrooms were fully legal. The Misuse of Drugs Act(6) amendment of 2005 rectified this discrepancy and made the possession, sale, and cultivation of Psilocybe’s illegal. The UK now has more restrictive laws in this area than most other countries (perhaps a rebound effect) with the sale of mushroom spores and inoculated grow kits being illegal as well.
Psilocybin (the compound) and Psilocybe mushrooms are both illegal in the Netherlands, however many ‘smart shops’ in the specializing in ethnobotanical products profit from one of the most widely known loopholes in the Dutch Drug Misuse Act(7). Fungi consist of two main portions, mycelium, and fruiting bodies. The Drug Misuse Act lists Psilocybe mushrooms is illegal, however, it does not include the mycelium of the fungi which also contains psilocybin. Mycelial clumps or “Magic Truffles, along with spores and inoculated grow kits are sold throughout the Netherlands.
Austria decriminalized the possession of psilocybin mushrooms in January 2016. Offenders caught in possession of personal use amounts will have to undergo a free therapy instead of a trial. Cultivation is technically legal as long as the mushrooms are not intended for use as a drug. Grow kits and spores can legally be purchased, however, the sale and possession of large amounts of dried mushroom is still illegal.
Both psilocybin and Psilocybe mushrooms are illegal in Mexico, however, authorities often turn a blind eye to personal use, citing article 32(3) of the UN Psychotropic substances act which states exemption can be made for religious or sacramental use.
Psilocybin (the molecule) is illegal in Brazil, however, Psilocybe mushrooms are legal to possess, cultivate, and distribute in all forms.
The British Virgin Islands
Psilocybin (the molecule) is illegal in the BVI, but naturally growing Psilocybe mushrooms are legal to pick and possess. The sale of Psilocybe mushrooms is prohibited laws are loosely enforced and they are openly sold throughout the country.
Psilocybin (the molecule) and Psilocybe Mushrooms are fully legal to cultivate, possess, and sell in the Bahamas
Psilocybin (the molecule) and Psilocybe Mushrooms are illegal in Cambodia however laws are loosely enforced, especially in tourist areas.
The Czech Republic
Psilocybin (the molecule) is illegal in The Czech Republic however Psilocybe mushrooms are decriminalized and cultivation is allowed for personal use. Possession of large quantities and the sale of dried mushrooms is still illegal but loosely enforced.
Psilocybin (the molecule) and dried Psilocybe Mushrooms are illegal in Iceland picking and possession of fresh mushrooms is allowed.
Psilocybin (the molecule) and Psilocybe Mushrooms are technically illegal in India however laws are loosely enforced due to many police departments being unaware of the prohibition.
Psilocybin (the molecule) and Psilocybe Mushrooms are illegal in Israel for purposes of personal use, but the purchase of spores and inoculated grow kits for research or microscopy purposes are allowed.
Psilocybin (the molecule) is Illegal in Italy however Psilocybe mushrooms are decriminalized. Grow kits and spores are legal to buy, sell and possess.
Psilocybin (the molecule) and Psilocybe Mushrooms are illegal in Laos however laws are loosely enforced, especially in tourist areas.
The Drug policy of Portugal (8) has decriminalized possession of all drugs.
Psilocybin (the molecule) and Psilocybe Mushrooms are legal in Samoa however there are government plans to make both illegal
Psilocybin (the molecule) is illegal in Spain however the consumption of Psilocybe mushrooms is decriminalized. The cultivation and sale of mushrooms is still illegal. The legality of spores and grow kits are ambiguous and prosecution is dependent on intent.
Psilocybin (the molecule) and Psilocybe Mushrooms are illegal in Thailand however laws are loosely enforced, especially in tourist areas.
Any country not listed in this article has no ambiguity on the illegality of psilocybin or Psilocybe mushrooms in any form (including spores), but hopefully in light of shifting public sentiment worldwide and promising research this will soon change. Over the last 20 years (since the first post-drug war psilocybin study was approved at Johns Hopkins University) the stigma and misinformation around psychedelics have been steadily decreasing. We believe that within the next 20 years psilocybin will become both legal and commonplace as a treatment for psychological conditions, and as a tool for personal growth.
Until this legal availability comes about you can acquire psilocybin, and psilocybin products (like teas and micro-doses) from our Shop.