Exploring the Legal Grey Area of Psychedelics in Panama

When it comes to Central America, Panama definitely has the most progressive drug laws in the region. However, these reformist attitudes have not yet extended to psychedelics, which are still illegal in every shape and form.

By Enrique Santos Reviewed by Tripsitter Legal Team · Last Updated: May 16, 2023
Last Updated: May 16, 2023
Artwork by: Diego Joka

With access to both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Panama is a beautiful country with ample amounts of natural beauty. Luckily, It’s also managed to avoid many of the drug-related issues, such as trafficking, gang violence, and rampant corruption, that have plagued other countries in the region.

This is only speculation, but perhaps the avoidance of these issues is the reason why Panama has become the Central American State with the most progressive drug laws.

Indeed, Panama has managed to set itself apart by making some headway in the decriminalization of cannabis, as well as the application of alternative legislative options when it comes to the punishment of drug-related offenses.

Summary of Drug Laws in Panama

  1. In 2021, the government of Panama introduced Law 242 and thus made history by becoming the first Central American state to decriminalize cannabis for medical use. Consumption and possession for recreational use are still illegal, as well as medicinal use in public areas.
  2. All psychedelic substances are illegal in Panama. The possession, use, and sale of psychedelics can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment.
  3. Panama has legislation allowing for proportionate sentencing when it comes to low-level drug crimes such as petty possession. As such, someone caught with a low quantity of magic mushrooms, for example, would receive a far less harsh sentence than in Honduras or El Salvador. Similarly, Panama also encourages the development of alternative measures to incarceration for these types of offenses, like, for instance, treatment programs.
  4.  When it comes to the attitude with which drug laws are enforced, Panama has a more laid-back attitude when compared to other states in the region. However, this is no reason to think that, if caught with psychedelics, no punishment will be applied.


Are Magic Mushrooms Legal In Panama?

The simple answer is: no, not at all.

When it comes to decriminalization, the first domino to fall is usually cannabis, and then mushrooms follow. However, at this time, mushrooms remain illegal in Panama, and no legislation has been introduced to change that.

According to current Panamanian law, the possession of any amount of psilocybin mushrooms can result in imprisonment for a minimum of two years, while trafficking or distribution of the mushrooms can result in much harsher penalties, including up to 15 years in prison or more.

Is LSD Legal In Panama?

Like magic mushrooms, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), also known as acid, is strictly illegal in Panama.

The same penalties of 2–15 years apply if caught with any amount of LSD.

Is DMT Legal in Panama?

The recent boom of DMT-related tourism in Latin America has led to the misconception that this drug is legal in many countries in Central and South America. The reality, though, is quite different.

DMT (dimethyltryptamine), the active ingredient in ayahuasca, is unambiguously illegal in Panama and most other South American countries.

The thing is that DMT-related tourism is usually carried out by entrepreneurial groups of native peoples and, in this sense, the government would rather turn a blind eye to this largely ineffectual and non-violent practice than mess with native peoples, who have their own constitutionally-mandated legal jurisdictions.

Is MDMA Legal In Panama?

MDMA, an amphetamine drug, is illegal in Panama. Only amphetamines that have been given via prescription from a licensed doctor are considered legal. So even the possession of Adderall pills without a prescription can result in criminal charges.

The charges range from 2–15 years imprisonment and various charges (as deemed by a judge).

Is Ketamine Legal In Panama?

The therapeutic potential of ketamine is starting to cause some buzz, but don’t expect it to be decriminalized in Panama in the near future. At the moment, ketamine is still just as illegal as cocaine and meth.

This differs from most Western countries that have allowed the use of ketamine in medical practice for decades already. Ketamine is being employed as a treatment for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder with impressive results.

Is Cannabis Legal In Panama?

Medical cannabis is legal in Panama, but that means you have to follow its domestic legislation in order to actually comply with the law. You can’t just claim that your weed is for a medicinal purpose and expect not to get in trouble.

Furthermore, cannabis is still illegal when it comes to recreational use, and it is always illegal when done in public locations.

Key Takeaways: Psychedelics in Panama

The recent legalization of medical marihuana in Panama gives a glimmer of hope to all those who wish for Central America, a region ravaged by drug-related violence, to start adopting more progressive views on drugs. But, as we know, these things take time, and we should all temper our expectations.

However, drug legalization trends across the world have shown that once marihuana is legalized, then comes psilocybin. So who knows, maybe it’s not inconceivable that we might live to see psychedelics become legal in Panama and other Central American states.

At the moment, though, they are still quite illegal. And yes, Panama indeed hands down less severe sentences when compared to other countries, but that doesn’t mean the possibility of a harsh sentence is off the table. It all depends on the judge, really.