Think Immigration: Magic Mushrooms and Psychedelics are Still a Bad Trip for U.S. Immigration Purposes

2/29/24 AILA Doc. No. 24022806.
Detail image of a mushroom.

Magic mushrooms are having a moment, maybe more, but it bears saying, they are very bad news for U.S. immigration purposes.

Sometimes called “shrooms” or just “mushrooms,” these naturally grown fungi contain Psilocybin and/o Psilocyn. Psilocybin and Psilocin are listed on the Controlled Substance Act’s Schedule 1, along with LSD, peyote, and marijuana, and more. Schedule 1 substances are considered to have no currently accepted medical use and a high potential abuse. Possession and sales violate federal law.

There is a groundswell of opinion, here, there, that magic mushrooms have therapeutic value for addressing mental health challenges, such as depression and anxiety. There has been a recent surge of clinical studies on psychedelics with favorable reports, as well as media attention. In 2018, Michael Pollan, celebrated food writer, raised awareness with his bestseller, “How To Change Your Mind: What The New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Depression, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence.”

The laws are starting to blur a bit. In 2020, Oregon voters approved Ballot Measure 109, authorizing the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to create a program to permit licensed service providers to administer psilocybin-producing mushroom and fungi products to individuals 21 years of age or older. Meanwhile, Denver, Oakland, Washington D.C., Ann Arbor and other jurisdictions have voted in similar initiatives or decriminalized magic mushrooms.

Canada is reportedly undergoing a “Shroom Boom,” according to Bloomberg News, due to “hazy” laws having to do with legality. More than two dozen stores opened in Canada in 2023. Meanwhile, NPR reports on one study that found magic mushroom seizures are up from nearly 500 pounds in 2017 to over 1800 pounds in 2022, with the West and Midwest leading the way.

This pattern of normalization to legalization is something akin to what we saw in the early 2010s with state and local legalization or decriminalization of cannabis. It is not fair to assume psylocibin will take the same path, but in some places, federal/local law conflicts are developing.

I think I first really took note of this issue when I heard friends starting to talk about potential benefits for treating anxiety. Not too long after, we encountered a border seizure case involving magic mushrooms, purchased over the counter in British Columbia. We’ve also been asked by noncitizens about investing and working in the magic mushroom industry.

Magic mushrooms and psychedelics are moving to the mainstream in some places, but the immigration laws are unlikely to catch up any time soon.

We are trying to raise client awareness of all issues relating to Schedule 1 substances. Local legalization and decriminalization hasn’t changed the Controlled Substance Act and the immigration consequences for noncitizens. When a client is issued a permanent resident card (hooray!), we include a brief statement in our Welcome to the U.S. letter, addressing cannabis, psylocibin, and other only somewhat controlled substances, along with some of other prudent advisories (e.g. Do Not Rock The Vote, yet!).

The Immigration and Nationality Act is clear enough: violations of controlled substance laws make persons inadmissible, as do admission to the essential elements of such a controlled substance violation. A person can be found inadmissible for health-related reasons, related to controlled substance abuse and addiction; and working and investing in the industry can be viewed as trafficking in controlled substances. These issues can arise in consultation with the client, in the green card or naturalization interview, or just when entering the United States.

While the Act includes a one-time waiver for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana for permanent resident applicants, there is no such green card waiver for any other Schedule 1 substance, including magic mushrooms. This can be a very difficult situation for families and is to be avoided.

So, fair warning: noncitizens would do well to avoid magic mushrooms and other psychedelics, for U.S. immigration purposes. The same goes for legalized cannabis. Questions? Talk to an immigration attorney before crossing these lines.

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Firm Cascadia Cross-Border Law
Location Bellingham, Washington USA
Law School Washington
Chapters Washington, Rome District
Join Date 4/5/01
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