Is Psilocybin Legal?

Disclaimer: The content provided in this blog is provided for your information and is not intended or offered as medical or legal advice. If you have medical or legal questions, please consult a licensed medical or legal professional. With a growing body of clinical research highlighting its benefits, the legal landscape of psilocybin is beginning to evolve worldwide. Yet, knowing how or where to access psilocybin legally remains tricky. If you’re interested in trying psilocybin but unsure what your options are, read below as we explore psilocybin’s legality and potential routes to access it safely. 

The Potential for Psilocybin

Psilocybin–the active ingredient in magic mushrooms–could become one of the future’s most sought-after compounds.

By increasing flexibility in the brain, psilocybin can help people more easily re-shape their thought and behavior patterns. This effect means when combined with therapy, the potential for psilocybin to transform lives is enormous. 

In 2016 groundbreaking research from the Beckley Foundation/Imperial Research Programme saw significant antidepressant effects in treatment-resistant patients, with positive results remaining at the three and six-month follow-ups. 

Thanks to psilocybin, the dark clouds that had pervaded some people’s every waking hour for decades were able to clear. Patients described the effect as a sudden and dramatic change for the better in the very quality of their consciousness,” described Beckley Foundation Founder and Director, Amanda Feilding.

This study, among others, led to the FDA approving psilocybin as a “Breakthrough Therapy” for depression in 2018, and researchers are now trialing psilocybin for a spectrum of mental and physical conditions, from eating disorders to headaches

Beyond its potential medical applications, psilocybin can significantly benefit everyday life, with studies showing it can promote well-being, emotional empathy, and creativity.

Moreover, psilocybin mushrooms have a long history of sacramental use across Mesoamerican cultures and are also widely used for spiritual purposes. 

Given the variety of different reasons one might want to try psilocybin and only a few legal options for doing so currently, it’s best to first consider what it is you’re looking for from your experience.

Options for Working With Psilocybin

Recreational

Recreational use of psilocybin refers to using the substance in an unguided setting for leisure purposes. While some people enjoy recreational use, there are several inherent risks.

Not only are there legal risks to recreational use, but because there is typically an absence of support and a lack of safety measures, such as dosing and testing purity of the substance, using the substance in this way can put you at more risk for psychological and physical harm. 

Moreover, research shows how set and setting–the mental state and physical environment of a user–play a significant role in psychedelic effects. In guided psychedelic experiences, there’s potentially greater control over the set and setting compared with recreational use, which could increase the likelihood of positive outcomes. 

Psychedelic-assisted Therapy and Psychedelic-assisted Psychotherapy

In general, psychedelic-assisted therapy (PAT) refers to a modern medicalized approach to using psychedelics. 

In PAT, users take psychedelic substances in the presence of one or two trained clinicians or therapists within a therapeutic framework. 

In clinical psychedelic studies, psychedelic experiences tend to occur between preparation and integration sessions. The integration sessions are designed to help participants make sense of their experiences and put lessons from the experience into practice. 

Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy (PAP) is a type of psychedelic therapy that involves using psychedelic experiences to help people explore past issues, engage with difficult emotions, and make changes in their lives. 

Apart from clinical trials, because psychedelics are largely illegal for medical purposes (with the exception of ketamine), most places offering PAP/PAT only offer preparation and integration support. 

For this reason, if you plan on doing PAT/PAP, depending on where you live, you are most likely looking at having to use the substance on your own or with a guide illegally.

Guided Single Sessions

Guided single sessions refer to psychedelic journeys supported by the guidance of another person. This person could be a “trip-sitter”– a trusted friend who supervises the experience–a professional facilitator or a shamanic practitioner. 

These sessions may be psychedelic ceremonies – where substances are taken in a community of others, and certain rituals are performed before, during, and after the experience. 

Because psilocybin is restricted in most countries, guided single sessions can also incur legal risks depending on where you live. 

Retreats

Psychedelic retreats are immersive experiences involving one or more guided psychedelic experiences that can last anywhere from a couple of days to a month. 

In general, different retreat types may serve a variety of non-medical purposes that are not the focus of more medically-oriented psychedelic-assisted therapies. Whereas some retreats may be more spiritual in nature, following the traditional practices of communities that use the substance for sacramental purposes, others may be more focused on personal well-being or self-exploration. 

During retreats, one or more psychedelic ceremonies take place under the guidance of a facilitator or shaman, usually within a community of other retreat participants. 

Retreat Programmes

Retreat programs are a type of longer retreat, typically involving multiple psychedelic ceremonies. 

Full retreat programs tend to include preparation and integration support, with online resources participants can access before and after, to navigate and maximize the benefits of their retreat experience. 

Within the programs, contemplative and well-being practices, such as yoga and meditation, are included to aid the psychological welfare of the participants during psychedelic experiences and help them gain tools to take into their everyday lives outside of the retreat. 

Compared to stand-alone retreats, retreat programs incorporate activities designed to aid the participant’s well-being and help them gain the most from their transformation journey. 

Full retreat programs also include pre and post-retreat activities and guidance, assisting participants to safely prepare for and integrate their experiences into their everyday lives.

Furthermore, with multiple attendees going through the experiences together, programs are an opportunity to form connection and become part of an ongoing community.

Retreats Are Not Therapy

It’s important to note that although retreat participants may experience certain therapeutic benefits, retreats are not a substitute for PAT.  While certain retreat faculty may have professional training in mental health, retreat facilitators are not necessarily acting in their professional capacity when present since their work with psilocybin could expose them to professional discipline. As such, retreat facilitators may be unavailable to give you the specialist support you would receive through PAT, especially if you’re seeking to address a particular mental health condition.

If you’re considering a psilocybin retreat provider, it’s important to understand the competency of its facilitators.

Since the risk of an adverse reaction to psychedelics are much greater in people with certain psychiatric disorders and/or medical conditions, many retreat centers don’t accept participants with severe mental health indications into their programs, ensuring participant safety. 

You can learn about participant screening at Beckley Retreats by visiting our FAQs. 

Across the globe, psilocybin is legally constrained in the majority of countries. 

Yet, there are a couple of exceptions where psilocybin is not legally prohibited for adults to possess and use outside a medical context, such as Jamaica. With no restrictions on its cultivation, distribution, and use, Jamaica is becoming an increasingly popular destination for psilocybin retreats. 

Psilocybin is less restricted in certain countries of Central and South America compared to other places in the world, with an increasing number of psilocybin retreats cropping up in recent years. However, the laws around psilocybin exist in a grey area even in many of these countries. 

For example, in Mexico, under Article 195, psilocybin mushrooms can be used for traditional spiritual practice. However, the broad terminology of this rule makes it difficult to determine whether a psilocybin retreat center fits within the legal exception. 

Furthermore, although state law has criminalized psilocybin in Brazil and Columbia, there’s no mention of legality concerning psilocybin-containing mushrooms.

Can You Get Psilocybin in the US? 

On a federal level, psilocybin is a Schedule I drug, making possession, growth, sale, and distribution a criminal offense. As such, the distribution and possession of psilocybin during US-based psilocybin retreats and psychedelic-assisted therapies are federally illegal. 

Currently, the only legal way to access guided psilocybin experiences in the US is by participating in a clinical research trial. However, states and cities are increasingly challenging these federally-imposed barriers to access.

Beginning with Oregon in 2019, several states across the US have either passed or are in the process of passing decriminalization laws, reducing or banning charges for possessing and transferring small amounts of psilocybin.

Furthermore, as of 2023, Oregon state will begin accepting license applications for psilocybin service centers under Measure 109. Colorado is set to follow soon after, with a recently passed measure legalizing supervised psilocybin use at state-regulated “healing centers” and other states with similar ballot initiatives either signed or in progress include  Connecticut, New Jersey, and Washington. 

Can You Get Psilocybin in Canada? 

Despite an increase in mushroom dispensaries cropping up in places like British Columbia over the past year, psilocybin is illegal in Canada as a Schedule III drug.  

If you’re a Canadian citizen, you may be able to access medical psilocybin treatments through the ‘Special Access Programme.’ However, access is currently limited to patients with severe illnesses that are treatment-resistant or life-threatening conditions, such as cancer. 

Nonetheless, in 2023, these rules are also set to change, with Alberta becoming the first Canadian province to regulate psychedelic therapies for mental health disorders. 

Can You Get Psilocybin in the UK?

Similar to the US, the prospect for legal psilocybin treatment is advancing in the UK, with ongoing efforts from several initiatives, such as the Beckley Foundation’s Policy Programme, incentivized to see psilocybin either fully legalized or rescheduled for therapeutic purposes. 

However, as it currently stands, psilocybin is a Class A drug, the equivalent of Schedule I under the US, and legal psilocybin can only be accessed through medical research trials. 

Can You Get Psilocybin in Europe?

Like various US states, there are several European countries where psilocybin has been decriminalized. These include:

  • Czech Republic
  • Austria
  • Spain
  • Portugal 
  • Italy 
  • Croatia
  • Serbia

Yet, for the majority of European countries, psilocybin, and guided psilocybin experiences remain illegal. 

One exception, however, is the Netherlands. Although Dutch law categorizes the body of “magic mushrooms” as Schedule I equivalent drugs, magic truffles–made with mycelium containing psilocybin–are legal and can be easily purchased in shops. 

Because of this law, the Netherlands is home to several retreat centers offering magic truffle treatments for self-development and spiritual purposes. But since truffles are technically only legal as a food in the country, they can’t be advertised as a medical treatment. 

Problems with Illegal Psilocybin Experiences

As mentioned previously, research has made it clear how psilocybin’s effects are largely determined by set and setting.

Using psilocybin in countries where it’s illegal or the laws are unclear could affect your “set,” adding anxieties and worries that may impact your overall experience negatively. 

And as for setting, guided psilocybin experiences held in unregulated environments may, in some instances, cause more harm than good. 

One major risk for harm is that without safety standards in countries where psilocybin is illegal, there are no regulations or requirements for facilitators. 

You could therefore risk having ill-trained facilitators incapable of providing the necessary wellbeing support you may need. Moreover, since no medical training is required, underground facilitators could be unaware of how psilocybin could interfere with medications you may be on, increasing the likelihood of physical danger. 

“Clients may be unaware that there is no regulatory oversight of underground guides or may fail to understand the risks of trusting another person while in a highly vulnerable state during psychedelic experiences,” quoted Clinical Psychologist Brian Pilecki in a recent scientific article published in the Harm Reduction Journal. 

Since the role of facilitator is so critical during psilocybin experiences, at Beckley, our world-class facilitation team is solely made up of well-experienced and trained professionals. In addition, we have at least one facilitator who is also a licensed physician, psychologist, or psychotherapist co-facilitating each ceremony (although they do not formally serve in a medical capacity in our retreats).

You can learn more about some of our expert facilitators at Beckley Retreats by visiting our website’s “Our Team” section. 

Another danger of unregulated psilocybin treatment could be that the psilocybin itself is illegitimately sourced, risking improper or poorly-dosed medicine. Beckley Retreats tests all our mushrooms and truffles, which we directly acquire from trusted sources only, for potency and purity to ensure they are high quality and can be administered at suitable doses. 

With safety as our top priority, at Beckley Retreats, our programs are held in places where psilocybin is legal, reflecting Amanda Feilding’s vision to bring the wellbeing and transformational benefits of psychedelics to a wider audience in safe and legal settings.  

These locations include the spacious and remote centers in Jamaica and the Netherlands. 

Not only have we strategically chosen these locations to ensure a tranquil and picturesque setting, aiding you on your transformation journey, but our centers are also located close to care facilities providing 24/7 emergency medical support.

By guaranteeing legal safety, we avoid harms associated with unregulated psilocybin treatment, ensuring our participants’ emotional, physical, and psychological welfare. 

For an immersive journey of transformation in a safe and legal setting, be sure to check out our upcoming psilocybin retreat programs.