Are Psychedelics Against the Law in El Salvador?

In El Salvador, all non-prescription drugs  —  except for alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine  —  are illegal. The country is also cracking down on gangs involved in the drug trade, so visitors would be wise to steer clear.

By Enrique Santos Reviewed by Tripsitter Legal Team · Last Updated: May 29, 2023
Last Updated: May 29, 2023
Artwork by: Diego Reyes

It is not a great time for pro-drug reform advocates in El Salvador. Nayib Buquele, the acting president, has declared an all-out war on the criminal gangs capitalizing on drugs, enacting strong prohibitionist stances.

As a result, the possession, use, transportation, and distribution of psychedelics of all kinds  —  as well as cannabis, depressants, stimulants, and narcotics  —  are highly illegal.

Summary of Psychedelic Drug Laws in El Salvador

  • According to the “Law Regulating Drug-Related Activities” in El Salvador, all hallucinogens are illegal.
  • The penalty for manufacturing and processing illegal drugs, as well as illicit trafficking, is 10–15 years in prison. Additionally, law violators can expect a fine of “between fifty and five thousand times the current minimum monthly urban wage.”
  • The penalty for possessing illicit substances varies depending on the amount but is the same for all drug types.
  • Possession of under two grams can lead to 1–3 years in jail plus a fine. Higher amounts can lead to 3–6 years and an even higher fine. If linked with the intent to traffick or distribute drugs, jail time can increase to 6–10 years.

Are Magic Mushrooms Legal in El Salvador?

No. Magic mushrooms are not legal in El Salvador. Unlike in several other countries, spores are also illegal, making it more difficult to grow your own magic mushrooms here as well.

Is LSD Legal in El Salvador?

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is illegal in El Salvador. Doing and/or possessing LSD in El Salvador can result in serious legal action (minimum 1-year in prison, or up to 20 if the activity is deemed as “trafficking.”)

Is DMT Legal in El Salvador?

No, most forms of dimethyltryptamine (DMT) are not legal in El Salvador. However, there are ayahuasca  —   an entheogenic potion containing DMT  —  retreats throughout the country, existing in a legal grey area.

Related: The Rise of Psychotourism.

Is Cannabis Legal in El Salvador?

No. Cannabis is not legal in El Salvador, nor is it decriminalized in any way.

It doesn’t appear like El Salvador will be decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana anytime soon.

Under Salvadoran law, possession of marijuana can be punished with a minimum of one year in prison, while trafficking or distribution of the drug can result in much harsher penalties, including up to 20 years in prison or more.

Drug Interdiction Efforts in El Salvador and Psychedelics

Countries with conservative stances on drugs usually group psychedelics right along with much more serious compounds like heroin and crack cocaine. In its recent crackdown against drug use, Salvador has also taken this approach.

Interestingly, however, psychedelics don’t appear in the governmental figures on drug busts, with the exception of 3,4-Methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA). This report  —  which prohibitionist governments always display with pride  —  details arrests for marihuana, cocaine, heroin, MDMA, and others, but not other psychedelics.

And this phenomenon isn’t limited to El Salvador. Indeed, when it comes to the implementation of illegal drug laws, psychedelics tend to slip under the radar.

Why is this?

The likely explanation comes down to monetary value  —  most psychedelics are cheap to produce and are largely non-habit-forming. As a result, criminal gangs and the government have little interest in them.

Additionally, since many psychedelics grow naturally in the environment, it’s often hard to police.

What Are the Medicinal Uses of Psychedelics?

Many developed nations are now exploring the wide-ranging possibilities for psychedelics in medicine.

Here are some of the most encouraging findings so far:

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — Magic mushrooms — and their main component, psilocybin — and other psychedelics have shown amazing potential for treating PTSD. Certain studies involving treatment-resistant veterans have successfully alleviated PTSD symptoms entirely for some participants.
  • DepressionPsychedelics may also aid in the treatment of depression. The case for this is compelling enough that — on January 1, 2023 — Oregon became the first state in the US to legalize the adult use of psilocybin therapy.
  • Cluster HeadachesRecent studies have found psychedelics may have the potential for treating cluster headaches  —  an extremely painful form of migraine.
  • AddictionSimilar to depression and PTSD, psychedelic therapy may be effective in breaking addictive behavior patterns.

The Future of Drug Policy in El Salvador

El Salvador is a beautiful country. However, having to grapple with criminal gangs involved in drug trafficking  —  such as MS13  — has led to widespread conservative views on drug use.

Much of the public disapproves of drugs in El Salvador  —  even naturally occurring drugs like magic mushrooms and cannabis. With such a steep penalty for possession of any drug, we highly recommend abstaining from using drugs if you’re planning to visit.

Based on the goals and ideologies of the current government, legalization and/or decriminalization of any psychedelic drugs (or marijuana) is unlikely to happen until at least the next election cycle in 2024.