Are Psychedelics Legal in The United Kingdom?

Phil Dubley Last Updated: May 21, 2022 Print

The UK is one of the strictest countries in the world when it comes to psychedelics. Nevertheless, psychedelic use remains widespread and widely available.

This article will teach you about the legality of magic mushrooms, LSD, ketamine, and MDMA in the UK, and more.

Summary of Psychedelic Drug Laws in the United Kingdom

  • Punishments are linked to the class of drug and whether sentencing is through a Magistrate’s Court or a Crown Court.
  • Class A substances carry a fine or up to 7 years in prison; Class B substances carry a fine or up to 5 years in prison; Class C substances carry a fine or up to 2 years in prison.

United Kingdom: Drug & Penalties Chart

Class Substance Psychedelics PenaltiesSentencing through Magistrate’s Court/Crown Court
A Cocaine, methadone, morphine, heroin MDMA, LSD Up to 6 months &/or a fine/
Up to 7 years &/or a fine
B Cannabis, codeine, some amphetamines, mephedrone, synthetic cannabinoids Up to 3 months &/or a fine/
Up to 5 years &/or a fine
C Amphetamines, benzos, buprenorphine, GHB, anabolic steroids, BZP Up to 3 months &/or a fine/
Up to 2 years &/or a fine

Sources:

Since 1971, magic mushrooms have been illegal in the UK. Before this, people used magic mushrooms as an alternative to LSD, which was banned even earlier, in 1967.

UK law defines this psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) as a Class A drug. This classification denies psilocybin has any medicinal value and suggests it to be a highly addictive and dangerous drug.

There’s no evidence to support this distinction. More and more studies are released each year, adding concrete evidence for the safety and therapeutic benefits of this substance. It’s unlikely magic mushrooms will remain a Class A drug in the UK for much longer.

The maximum penalties for possessing this substance are not as harsh as in other European countries. If caught with hallucinogenic mushrooms, your sentence can be up to 7 years imprisonment.

Related: Where are magic mushrooms legal?

Do Magic Mushrooms Grow Wild in The United Kingdom?

Magic mushrooms grow in many parts of the world, and the UK is no exception. London’s forests are home to more than 80 individual species of magic mushrooms. Picking them is accepted, but selling them is illegal.

When it comes to magic mushrooms, the most common species is the liberty cap (Psilocybe semilanceata).

You can find other species, such as the fly agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria).

Related: Where Do Shrooms Grow? How to Find Magic Mushrooms in the Wild.

What Are the Medicinal Uses of Shrooms?

In recent years, psilocybin research has been expanding, and there’s mounting evidence favoring therapeutic use.

A study from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine shows that psilocybin may help treat clinical depression.

Other studies support the effects of magic mushrooms for existential anxiety (used in palliative care), addiction and substance abuse, and cluster headaches.

Psilocybin mushrooms are also being explored for their use in trauma-informed therapy and their capability to promote problem-solving skills and boost creativity.

Suggested Reading: What is Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy?

Map of Magic Mushroom Decriminalization in Europe

Legalization Status

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is a synthetic psychedelic derived from the ergot fungus. The effects are similar to psilocybin.

LSD is illegal worldwide.

Like psilocybin, LSD is considered a Class A drug under UK law. Drugs belonging to this class are considered to be the most dangerous.

The maximum penalty for LSD possession in the UK is seven years in jail.

The UK has what’s called the Analogue Act — which makes all isomers of illegal substances illegal by default as well. This means all lysergamide psychedelics are illegal in the UK, too — including LSZ, 1P-LSD, ETH-LAD, PRO-LAD, ALD-52, AL-LAD, and more.

MDMA (ecstasy) is a stimulant and mild hallucinogenic substance. In recent years, its use has grown significantly, especially in young people.

Like the drugs mentioned above, MDMA is illegal in the UK.

It’s included in the class A category, which means it’s considered dangerous. If caught with this MDMA, you can spend up to 7 years in prison, depending on the amount and any prior convictions. The more often you’re caught breaking this law, the bigger the punishment.

No. Ketamine —an anesthetic often used in surgery or veterinary medicine —is illegal in the UK for recreative purposes.

Ketamine is a dissociative with a wide range of therapeutic benefits. In the states, it’s being used as a treatment for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In lower doses, it’s used recreationally as a party drug similar to MDMA. Unlike most other psychedelics, ketamine can become habit-forming and lead to addiction.

Historically, ketamine was considered a Class C substance in the country. However, since 2014 it has been reclassified to Class B. This means that now penalties for use and possession are harsher than before. This change was adopted as an attempt to reduce the recent uptick in ketamine-related addictions. So far, this change has not produced any significant change in ketamine addiction.

The penalty for the illegal possession of ketamine is five years in prison.

What’s The Difference Between Legalization & Decriminalization

It’s essential to understand the differences between legalization and decriminalization. This will save you from future problems that may arise by misinterpreting these terms.

When we talk about decriminalization, we mean that the penalties for a prohibited activity are reduced. This doesn’t make it legal, but it does remove criminal charges and jail time from offenders. You may still get a fine and/or confiscation of materials.

Legalization means completely removing any penalties for a substance or activity that was previously illegal. There may still be restrictions in place for legalized substances.

Key Takeaways: What’s The Future of Psychedelics in The United Kingdom?

The UK is slowly moving towards the legalization of certain psychedelics for medical use. This is a trend we’re finding all over the world.

Many other countries, including Portugal and Spain, have moved to decriminalize drugs as a way to reduce problems with addiction and abuse of addictive substances (with promising results so far). We don’t see this happening anytime soon in the UK.