Curious where San Pedro is legal?

Where is San Pedro Cactus Legal?

The San Pedro Cactus, also known as Huachuma, is legal in some parts of the world. San Pedro is part of South American culture and contains mescaline, a powerful and long-lasting psychedelic compound. Read on to find out where is San Pedro cactus legal and find a safe Huachuma ceremony. 

From its traditional roots in the Andean Mountain range in South America to ornamental gardens in the United States, San Pedro cactus can be legally cultivated in many parts of the world.

Laws vary from region to region, so we did the research to find out what is San Pedro cactus, where Huachuma is legal and why it is legal.

What is San Pedro Cactus?

San Pedro cactus is native to South America. The traditional name is Huachuma in Quechua, the language spoken in the region where the cactus grows.  Botanical name for San Pedro are Trichocereus pachanoi or Echinopsis pachanoi

San Pedro contains a psychedelic compound known as mescaline. While mescaline is the main active ingredient, there are likely many other active alkaloids in the San Pedro cactus. The experience is fairly long, often lasting 8-12 hours and sometimes more.

“Huachuma” means “shamans helper” in Quecha. The spirit of Huachuma is often described as a gentle grandfather and as medicine of the heart.

The cactus has a long history of use In the Andes Mountains, where it grows naturally. Use goes back thousands of years, with evidence dating to 1300 BC. 

In recent years San Pedro ceremonies have spread around the world. In Europe, Canada, and the United States, San Pedro is being served at many different retreats, sometimes alongside other plant medicines like ayahuasca or bufo.

Where is San Pedro Legal?

While it is becoming increasingly easy to find a Huachuma retreat, mescaline is illegal around the world. However, growing San Pedro is often legal as it is a well-established ornamental plant with rapid growth and beautiful white flowers. 

The cactus becomes illegal when harvested and consumed. Some countries prohibit the transport of cacti or seeds. Rules vary across countries, and in some areas, consumption of San Pedro is legal.

Because of its history of use in the Andean highlands, San Pedro is legal for ceremonial use in these countries:

Other countries like Portugal have decriminalized all drugs making San Pedro legal to possess and consume. Other countries like Mexico or Spain do not have specific laws regarding Huachuma, and ceremonies are held there.

Dozens of San Pedro growing along a fence
San Pedro can be legally grown in many countries.

A common legal framework for San Pedro is allowing for cultivation but not consumption. In all countries listed, mescaline is illegal. However, the following countries allow San Pedro for possession, growth, transport, and sale, with the assumption it is an ornamental plant:

  • United States
  • Canada (transport is illegal)
  • UK
  • Holland
  • Sweden
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • New Zealand
  • Thailand
  • Ukraine

It is important to note that between different regions in the listed countries, there are specific rules.

Be aware of your local laws, as this article is a rough guideline of known jurisdictions. Mescaline, however, is illegal in most parts of the world, meaning consuming the cactus can fall into a legal grey area.

Why is San Pedro Legal?

San Pedro is legal in many places because it is an established and loved ornamental plant. The cactus has now existed in people’s gardens for a long time. It would be difficult to roll back legislation, and rumour has it that San Pedro varieties with high amounts of mescaline are stopped at the US border.

Andean regions like Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador allow Huachuma consumption because of its cultural significance. For example, in Bolivia, Huachuma is part of a specific law allowing for the use of plants with a history of use among indigenous groups.

Why is Peyote Illegal, But San Pedro is Legal?

A peyote cactus flowering
The peyote cactus is legally protected for conservation.

In some regions, peyote cactus, another mescaline-containing cactus, is illegal, while San Pedro is legal. The regulations exist to protect the peyote cactus. 

Peyote grows in a very small stretch of land in the Southern United States and Mexico. This area, known as the “peyote gardens,” contains all the natural peyote in the world. Peyote also grows extremely slowly.

By making the plant illegal for everyone except those with a history of use, the ancient practice has greater protection.

Peyote has an extremely long history of use by Native Americans. A cave with remnants of peyote found by sophisticated carbon dating equipment recorded peyote’s use more than 5000 years ago. 

It has taken extensive negotiations and legal battles with the United States government to reestablish Native Americans’ legal right to use peyote. Organizations like the Native American Church are now allowed to use the plant. 

You can learn more about mescaline and peyote in the Netflix documentary How to Change Your Mind. To learn more about plant medicines like ayahuasca, check out this article.

Is it Legal to Grow San Pedro Cactus?

Many areas around the world allow for the growth of San Pedro cacti. This is, of course, without the intent to consume the cactus. The legality of growing San Pedro is undefined in many regions.

It is possible to buy San Pedro cacti from common garden centers. A delightful plant to grow, it can grow half a meter in one year and produces beautiful flowers. There are several different species of San Pedro to learn to identify and grow.

Final Thoughts – Is Huchuma Legal?

San Pedro and Huachuma are often legal to grow in North America and Europe. Consuming the cactus is usually not legal as it contains mescaline. Countries in South America, like Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, still legally use the cactus as they have for thousands of years.

San Pedro cactus is different from peyote, a rare and protected plant. San Pedro, however, is a common plant in some regions and easy to grow under the right conditions. 

While San Pedro is readily available to many people around the world, it is a very long psychedelic experience. It can be beautiful, often called a medicine of the heart, but also challenging, like any plant medicine experience.

We recommend joining a San Pedro retreat or finding an ayahuasca retreat that includes San Pedro. Be sure to do your research on how to prepare and ensure San Pedro or other psychedelics are safe for you.

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About the Author

Patrick is a freelance writer and blogger at AdjustableNormal. Since his youth, he has been fascinated with psychedelics and altered states, experimenting with them on and off the page. His drive to explore consciousness has brought him around the world and down many rabbit holes to yogis, plant nerds, and alternative communities. Originally Canadian, he lives in the Peruvian Andes with his wife and cat.

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