Drug Policy in Nepal: A Closer Look At Asia’s Top Psychedelic Tourist Destination
Nepal is a hotspot for psychotourism — but the laws here aren’t as relaxed as they might seem.
Nepal has a rich history of shamanic psychedelic use dating back some 2000 years (or more).
Shamanistic rituals, including the use of psilocybin-containing mushrooms and Amanita muscaria mushrooms, remain an essential aspect of the culture today.
As a result of this rich psychedelic history, Nepal maintains one of the largest psychotourism industries in the world.
Psychedelic practitioners and retreat centers invite psychonauts worldwide looking for authentic psilocybin and Amanita muscaria sessions guided by expert shamans.
Here’s the current legal climate surrounding psychedelic substances in Nepal.
Are Magic Mushrooms Legal in Nepal?
No laws govern the cultivation or use of magic mushrooms in Nepal.
The hallucinogenic component of magic mushrooms, psilocybin, is illegal in most parts of the world — Nepal is one of the few cases where psilocybin-containing mushrooms are legal. Other places include Jamaica, the Netherlands (magic truffles only), and Canada (for medical use).
You can often find magic mushrooms sold by vendors in street markets, and numerous retreat centers in the country offer legal psilocybin sessions.
The entire industry surrounding magic mushrooms and other natural psychedelics in Nepal is informal — there are no regulations for the cultivation, administration, or possession of these substances here.
Do Magic Mushrooms Grow Wild in Nepal?
Yes. Magic mushroom species such as Psilocybe percevalii, P. pseudobullacea, and P. subcubensis, P. montana, P. coprophila are found naturally in Nepal.
A famous strain of Psilocybin cubensis was named after the capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu, close to where the first sample was collected. This strain features medium-sized mushrooms with a long, pale stem and a broad, tan cap. They have above-average potency compared to other strains. This variety is renowned for being remarkably stable and well-balanced. It can produce several healthy flushes of respectable-sized mushrooms.
Another popular strain of magic mushrooms collected from Nepal is the Chitwan strain (CHT). John Allen allegedly discovered this strain in the Chitwan district of Nepal while on his infamous mushroom-hunting trip through Southeast Asia. This strain is well-balanced and simple to grow. It can produce numerous dense flushes and is a great yielder overall.
Is LSD Legal in Nepal?
No. LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and other lysergamide psychedelics are illegal in Nepal.
Although the specific classification of this substance under the Narcotics Drug Control Act of Nepal is unclear, and LSD is not explicitly listed on the country’s list of restricted substances — it’s generally accepted LSD falls under the category of “psychotropic drugs” and is therefore illegal to possess.
According to Section 4 of the Narcotic Drugs Control Act, it is illegal to manufacture, prepare, sell, or distribute psychoactive drugs, import or export psychoactive drugs, or buy, store, process, or engage in psychoactive drug trafficking. Most experts maintain that this includes LSD.
As stated in section 2, this rule applies to all foreigners and Nepali nationals who transact, export, or import narcotics into or out of Nepal in violation of the aforementioned legislation while residing in Nepal.
Anyone who consumes any psychoactive drugs as well as their salt and other ingredients — as specified by the Government of Nepal by notification periodically published in the Nepal Gazette — shall be subject to a sentence of up to two months in jail and/or a fine of up to Rs 2,000, or both. Any more criminal behavior regarding this drug might result in a ten-year sentence and/or a fine of up to Rs 200,000.
Is DMT Legal in Nepal?
No. DMT (dimethyltryptamine) is not legal in Nepal.
Nepal maintains strict laws against psychoactive substances like DMT via the Narcotics Drug Control Act. According to the law, this demonstrates that the substance has a significant potential for abuse and no accepted medical applications.
The laws for DMT are similar to that of LSD. If the police discover you have this substance, you might receive a sentence of up to two months in jail and a fine of up to Rs 2,000; however, other activities like drug trafficking and production could result in a ten-year sentence.
Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic and entheogenic brewed beverage from South America that induces psychedelic experiences such as visual hallucinations and changed perceptions of reality. It is legal in Nepal; however, there are reports of ayahuasca retreats popping up around the country from time to time.
As of yet, there haven’t been any significant issues with people using ayahuasca in Nepal — but it’s not recommended due to the risk of severe legal troubles and the fact that ayahuasca doesn’t have any traditional use here.
Is MDMA Legal in Nepal?
No. MDMA (ecstasy) is not legal in Nepal.
The synthetic drug MDMA has stimulant and subdued hallucinogenic properties. This drug is believed to be included under the category of psychoactive medications even if its exact classification under the Narcotics Drug Control Act of Nepal is not explicit.
If the authorities find you possessing this substance, you may be sentenced to two months in jail along with a fine of up to Rs 2,000; however, trafficking and manufacturing of the drug might land you in prison for almost ten years.
As there has been no known information on plans to use MDMA in clinical treatment, laws are unlikely to change here in the near future.
Is Ketamine Legal in Nepal?
Yes. However, ketamine is only permitted for medical use in Nepal.
Ketamine is administered directly under the supervision of a trained medical doctor as a form of anesthesia and, in some cases, treatment for treatment-resistant depression. This compound is not used as an at-home treatment here like in parts of Europe and North America.
The Narcotics Drug Control Act continues to prohibit the use of ketamine for recreational purposes. Its misuse could lead to a fine, imprisonment, or both.
Is Marijuana Legal in Nepal?
No, cannabis products are banned in Nepal.
Since ancient times, marijuana and cannabis use in Nepal have been interwoven with religious, cultural, and economic perspectives. However, since the amendment of the Narcotics Drug Control Act 1976, Nepal has had strict laws against growing, producing, preparing, purchasing, selling, importing, trafficking, sorting, or using cannabis or marijuana.
This act applies to all citizens and foreigners who may conduct transactions and export or import them from or into Nepal.
Anyone caught using cannabis faces a fine or imprisonment for up to one month, whichever comes first. Anyone who grows up to 25 cannabis or marijuana plants faces a maximum three-month jail sentence or a fine of Rs 3,000. Anyone who grows more than 25 cannabis or marijuana plants faces a three-year prison sentence or a fine ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000.
What’s the Difference Between Legalization & Decriminalization?
Decriminalization and legalization are two completely separate concepts.
Legalization means something that was once illegal is now permissible. When a substance is legalized, the associated punishments are removed, and it becomes possible to purchase from licensed dealers. Regulations such as the minimum age to purchase, maximum quantities, or restrictions on processing and packaging may still apply.
Decriminalization refers to the process of removing or lowering something’s criminal status. The substance (or act) remains illegal but is no longer a serious crime. When a substance is decriminalized, it doesn’t permit the sale of the substance and usually swaps lengthy jail sentences for offenders with a small fine or mandatory treatment instead.
Key Takeaways: What’s the Future of Psychedelics in Nepal?
Nepal’s drug laws are rigid compared to the rest of the world. Despite not being illegal, magic mushrooms are neither widely available nor easily traded in Nepal. Regarding its application and advantages, there are no recent studies available.
Ketamine can only be used in the medical field with a doctor’s strictly enforced approval.
It seems improbable that MDMA, marijuana, DMT, or LSD will be legal or decriminalized soon.