Is it legal to use psychedelics in Canada?

Published Jan 30, 2023 10:00 a.m. ET
Unsplash / Pretty Drugthings

Psychedelics range from a long list of regulated plants and fungi to chemicals and even medications. The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) federally regulates and divides these substances into schedules based on how dangerous each one is believed to be, using a 1-9 scale, with Schedule I being the highest risk.

MDMA and ketamine are listed as Schedule I while the majority of psychedelics are Schedule III, but not all of these substances are illegal, and some may even be prescribed or recommended by doctors, granting special access and permissions to those who qualify.

So, are psychedelics legal in Canada?

The answer is often no, but that’s not always the case. These are the legal and decriminalized psychedelics you can find in Canada.


Ketamine is a substance that works as an anesthetic which is why it is used by some medical professionals in both the United States and Canada, and it’s been in use  in medical settings for more than 50 years. Some clinics in Canada offer ketamine therapy, but most require patients to qualify, and only those who qualify with certain conditions are accepted. It’s not legal to buy this one off the street. However, it is possible for some individuals to access this psychedelic.


Peyote is a cactus with psychedelic properties. It’s often used to make mescaline and completely legal for Canadians to grow sell and consume, as long as they’re not isolating and extracting the active ingredient a process that is still illegal. The one and only exception is special permission granted by the Canadian government to those who are doing so to use mescaline for ceremonial or ornamental purposes.


This substance is extracted from the roots of a Central West African shrub called Tabernathe. In Canada, it’s still illegal to possess ibogaine but selling and distributing it are not. However, it is a high-risk psychedelic that has been directly linked to adverse and even fatal effects, and for that reason, Health Canada advises Canadians to steer clear of it.



MDMA is illegal to buy or sell in Canada, but in January of 2023, British Columbia decriminalized personal possession of up to 2.5 grams as part of a pilot program. Of course, you can’t take it just anywhere in the province, as it remains prohibited in certain places like schools or Airports, but Section 56 protects BD residents from prosecution, and not just for this one psychedelic.

Section 56 exemptions

If your healthcare provider is actively participating in research, or residents are able to sign up for a current clinical trial, a Section 56 exemption may be granted for use of any psychedelic regulated by the CDSA. Basically, as long  as it’s being used for necessary purposes like medical treatment, or scientific research patients may legally buy and possess one of several illicit substances including LSD and MDMA.

For those who don’t qualify, there’s always the option of joining a church with a Section 56 exemption. So far, there are several that have successfully obtained this permission, like one in Montreal that sought approval to serve congregants tea made with a plant called ayahuasca which contains DMT, for ceremonial purposes.

Psychedelics approved through the Special Access Program (SAP)

A 2022 amendment changed the game for Canadians approved through the Special Access Program (SAP). Before then, certain psychedelics like MDMA and psilocybin were not included in the list of accessible substances, but now anyone with severe and life-threatening conditions may apply for a broad range of options, as can anyone with a terminal diagnosis, as long as previous treatments and therapies have proven to be insufficient.

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