As you begin your search for the perfect place to embark on your first Ayahuasca journey, you find yourself wondering: Is Ayahuasca illegal?
That’s a logical question coming from the Western context where psychotropic substances are definitely not legal. One would think that Ayahuasca would be slapped with the “illegal” sticker too; and in a roundabout way, it has been, which makes it much more difficult to search out reputable facilitators and shamans without traveling to Central and South America. Understandably, many seekers called to an Ayahuasca experience may be wary about stepping into ceremony.
What’s the deal with the legality of Ayahuasca?
The main chemical component of Ayahuasca is dimethyltryptamine, more commonly known as DMT, which is classified as a Schedule 1 drug. Its structure is very similar to that of LSD or psilocybin, both of which were outlawed after a rise in recreational use in the 1960s and ’70s. Most substances that produce hallucinogenic effects came under regulatory scrutiny around this time. However, the plants that contain DMT, and the MAO inhibitors that prevent the stomach from digesting it too quickly, were not outlawed by the 1971 Vienna Convention.
This is where it gets tricky.
Ayahuasca legality in the USA and Canada
Simply stated, it’s not illegal to possess plants that contain the medicine, including psilocybin, peyote, san pedro, and the active ingredients of Ayahuasca (also known as yage), Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis.
But the psychoactive components within them are.
B. Caapi contains MAO-inhibiting alkaloids, which serve to block the brain’s natural guardians that would otherwise prevent the psychoactive effect of Mother Ayahuasca from taking hold. P. Viridis, like quite a few other plants in the world, is rich in DMT, a substance also produced every day in our brains. But because we spend our days flooded with MAO, we don’t feel it.