How Magic Mushrooms Work

Magic Mushrooms and the Law

The legality of possessing, taking, growing or selling magic mushrooms greatly depends upon where you live. In the United States, psilocybin is a Schedule I drug under an amendment to the Controlled Substances Act called the Psychotropic Substances Act. This means that it has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use and isn't safe for use even under a doctor's supervision. Since psilocybin is a psychotropic substance in magic mushrooms, this is usually interpreted to mean that the mushrooms themselves are illegal. However, since mushroom spores don't contain psilocybin, some have pointed to this as an ambiguity in the federal law.

Usually busts related to magic mushrooms occur under state law (unless they're in extremely large amounts) and most states ban possession of them. In recent years, though, cities and states have begun to reevaluate their stance on mushrooms. In 2019, Denver became the first city in the U.S. to decriminalize magic mushrooms. Santa Cruz and Oakland, California followed suit [source: Leins].


With those victories in hand, mushroom legalization activists are hard at work in other states. Legislators in Oregon, California, and Iowa have introduced bills supporting mushroom decriminalization.

Possession and selling of fresh mushrooms and spores (dried mushrooms are almost always illegal) is still legal in many places around the world. But laws from nation to nation are wildly inconsistent. For example, until 2005, it was legal to sell fresh magic mushrooms in Great Britain; spore possession is still legal. The Netherlands, once known as a hotbed for drugs illegal elsewhere, banned the sale of dried mushrooms in 2001 and fresh mushrooms in 2008, but you're still allowed to be in possession of small amounts of "magic truffles," which refers to magic mushrooms that aren't quite fully developed, thereby skirting the law. Mexico bans mushrooms outright ... unless they're used for religious purposes. In Spain, mushrooms are decriminalized, but grow kits might not go over very well with the authorities [source: Entheonation].

In other countries, it may be legal to have them but not sell them. And in others, penalties for possession can be severe. In Indonesia, for instance, authorities sometime dole out death sentences for anyone who possess these kinds of substances [source: Inside Indonesia].

Other nations have zero interesting in policing or penalizing mushroom growers or users. In Jamaica, Bahamas and Brazil, for example, mushrooms are totally legal.

Some countries, such as Mexico, make exceptions to bans on magic mushrooms when used by indigenous populations in religious ceremonies. We'll look at the history of mushrooms next.