The Sanctuary Wellness Institute does not offer Psilocybin Therapy. This web page is meant for informational use only.
Psilocybin is the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms (also known as “shrooms) that causes hallucinations and alters perception. While historically used for religious rituals and recreation, psilocybin mushrooms are now emerging as a viable treatment for many chronic and debilitating conditions.
As the scientific understanding of brain functioning evolves, researchers are unlocking the benefits of psilocybin and the hallucinogenic’s ability to rewire neural pathways and help patients modify their behavioral patterns and thought processes. Research into other psychedelic drugs like LSD, MDMA, peyote, ayahuasca, DMT, ketamine, and mescaline has supplemented the body of research demonstrating psilocybin’s benefits.
The incredible promise demonstrated by psilocybin in early clinical trials is fueling a nationwide reassessment of the legality of psilocybin. While two states and several cities have already legalized or decriminalized the compound, many others are considering legislation and the creation of treatment programs.
This article covers the past, present, and future of psilocybin’s legal status. If you suffer from a chronic condition that lacks effective treatment methods, learning about the legality of psilocybin will best position you to make informed decisions about your treatment options.
History of Psilocybin Legislation
Research into the medical use of psychedelics began in the 1940s. Researchers studied the effects of LSD and psilocybin, exploring potential therapeutic applications for emotional disorders. During the 1960s, psilocybin became closely associated with the counterculture movement in the mind of the American public.
As a result of changing societal views and misrepresentation of psilocybin’s effects, the federal government classified the compound a Schedule I drug as part of the Controlled Substances Act passed in 1970. This action criminalized possession and use of the compound, ending all psilocybin research.
As the understanding of psychological conditions and neuroscience grew, researchers began proposing research into psilocybin during the 1990s. Eventually, Johns Hopkins University established a psychedelic research program, signaling a shift in prevailing societal attitudes. Researchers formally urged the government to reclassify psilocybin as a Schedule IV drug in 2018 based on their findings.
In the late 2010s, municipalities began debating the criminality of psilocybin and the benefits of relaxing drug laws. The District of Columbia and cities in Michigan, California, and Massachusetts decriminalized psilocybin possession.
Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin in 2020. Colorado followed in 2022. Currently, 11 states have taken formal steps to explore psilocybin or have pending legislation.
In July 2022, the Biden Administration voiced its support for research into the therapeutic use of psilocybin by veterans with PTSD. While new federal laws have yet to follow, the statement was a meaningful step in changing the public’s opinion of psychedelics.
Where is Psilocybin Legal?
As of February 2023, psilocybin is only legal in Oregon and Colorado. Oregon opened formal treatment centers in January 2023. Colorado legalized psilocybin via a 2022 ballot measure and is now building the administrative framework to oversee a medical program.
While psilocybin is legal in these states, the therapy is not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat any condition. The FDA still classifies it as a Schedule 1 controlled substance with a high potential for abuse.
The unsupervised use of magic mushrooms is unadvisable. The success of the treatment hinges on combining the heightened state of awareness achieved using psilocybin with formal therapeutic techniques.
While legality is not widespread, many municipalities have softened their stance on possession and use. Before consuming psilocybin, verify local laws to confirm the extent of decriminalization and permissible limits. Psilocybin is decriminalized in the following areas:
- Ann Arbor, Michigan
- Arcata, California
- Cambridge, Massachusetts
- Detroit, Michigan
- District of Columbia
- Easthampton, Massachusetts
- Hazel Park, Michigan
- Northampton, Massachusetts
- Oakland, California
- Port Townsend, Washington
- San Francisco, California
- Santa Cruz, California
- Seattle, Washington
- Washtenaw County, Michigan
In addition, while not yet legal or decriminalized, many states, including Texas and Oklahoma, permit residents to participate in authorized clinical trials. Psilocybin use in these settings occurs under strict rules as part of ongoing research into the compound.
Legal Risks of Using Psilocybin
Despite its changing profile and growing support, psilocybin remains federally illegal. Possessing and using psilocybin in most of the country is punishable by fines and imprisonment. It is never safe to transport psilocybin across state lines or use it on federal property, like national parks or courthouses.
Using psilocybin where it is decriminalized usually means law enforcement is discouraged from actively policing private personal possession and use. However, selling, distributing, or publicly using psilocybin in these communities may expose you to legal jeopardy.
It’s also important to be vigilant about where you obtain psilocybin. Regardless of where you live, transactions between private parties are illegal. If permitted in your area, the safest way to use psilocybin is by enrolling in an authorized clinical trial. Your use will be supervised and legal based on participation in the study.
Check your local laws, but your next safest option is to purchase psilocybe mushroom spores and cultivate mushrooms for personal use. While existing in a legislative gray area, buying spores online is not technically illegal because they do not contain psilocybin until they mature.
Legal Future of Psilocybin
While predicting lawmakers’ actions is difficult, signs point toward more states legalizing the therapeutic use of psilocybin and establishing formal treatment programs. The FDA granted psilocybin therapy “breakthrough status” in 2018 based on the strength of a trial on depression treatment.
This decision marked a paradigm shift in the view of psychedelics, fueling subsequent research that further bolstered the case for legalization. Psychedelic mushrooms’ promise as a treatment for PTSD, depression, substance use disorders, and other chronic mental health conditions that lack effective interventions has led members of both political parties to advocate legalization.
The next step in psilocybin’s future is FDA approval of the therapy as a treatment for specific conditions. The high-quality clinical trials occurring nationwide continue adding evidence to the case for DEA reclassification and FDA approval.
The anecdotal evidence coming to light as patients share success stories will help fuel the change in public opinion. Ongoing education about the misconceptions about psychedelics that led to prohibition and their therapeutic promise will lead more people to recognize the treatment’s validity. This attitude shift will spur lawmakers to action.
John DiBella is a medical marijuana advocate, owner of The Sanctuary Wellness Institute, and a writer. When he’s not writing blogs about medical marijuana, he enjoys hiking, camping and sailing.