Drug decriminalization in Vancouver

Where in the World is MDMA Legal?

An MDMA experience can be a very pleasurable one for a consumer. It often elicits strong feelings of emotional warmth and empathy towards others. These loving feelings are known to enhance the experience of being at social events. As a result, MDMA (or its adulterated cousin, ecstasy), has been a mainstream drug of choice for clubbers since the ’80’s. Modern research is extending the usefulness of MDMA to much more than a party drug. MDMA is a surprisingly effective treatment for PTSD and appears to be a cutting edge therapy for couple’s counseling.

But legality is still an impediment to access. Generally speaking, MDMA is an illegal and controlled substance in most countries around the world. However, it is authorized for some limited therapeutic uses in some countries, and there’s one notable exception in which it is currently permitted for recreational use. Let’s explore where in the world MDMA is legal and in what capacity, and identify where it’s likely to become legal soon.


As of January 2022, medical professionals across Canada are able to request MDMA via the Federal Special Access Program. The SAP permits a doctor to request an unusual therapy in certain circumstances. The patient in question must be stricken with a serious or life-threatening condition. They must also have tried to resolve their condition with other therapies, and were either unsuccessful or unavailable.

Further, in a breakthrough ruling in 2023, the province of British Columbia decriminalized MDMA. It is now permissible for adults to carry up to 2.5 grams of the substance for personal use. The new law was passed in the context of a special exemption that will be in effect until 2026. It also applies to cocaine, opioids, and methamphetamine. Police have been instructed not to confiscate small amounts of these substances and instead to offer information about “health and social supports“.


As of 2023, MDMA is illegal in the USA, with a few exceptions. As in Canada, the federal expanded access program allows patients with serious illnesses who have exhausted their other treatment options to access MDMA. The program remains highly restrictive, leading most patients to seek MDMA through clinical trials.


In June of this year, Australia approved MDMA as a treatment for PTSD and treatment-resistant depression. It is the first country in the world to make MDMA broadly legal for therapeutic use in this way.

Research Into MDMA – Where Will MDMA be Legal?

Research into the efficacy of MDMA appears to be very promising and may inspire legalization at some point. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS, is an advocate of psychedelic therapy. At the end of 2023, MAPS formally submitted its longstanding research into MDMA to the FDA for Federal approval. So far, the research has yielded especially promising results for participants struggling with PTSD. In a pilot study, the majority of participants no longer met the criteria for PTSD after being treated with MDMA. When phase two trials yielded similar results, the FDA designated MDMA as a ‘breakthrough’ treatment for PTSD. The phase three trial results have been equally compelling. Of the trial participants who received MDMA for PTSD, 66% (twice as many as in the placebo group) no longer qualified for a diagnosis of PTSD at two months post-treatment.

MAPS’ submission of MDMA for PTSD treatment to the FDA means these folks may not have to wait much longer.

Yet another large clinical trial found that 71% of participants who received MDMA along with psychotherapy no longer had PTSD at the conclusion of the study. In all cases, this performance dramatically exceeded reports coming from the placebo group. The next step is for the trial’s sponsors to apply for FDA approval for MDMA as a treatment for PTSD available to the general public. Approval could come as early as 2024, opening up a new era for the millions of Americans dealing with PTSD.

These encouraging outcomes have led researchers to begin investigating how MDMA might be useful in treating anxiety related to life-threatening illnesses, social anxiety, other forms of anxiety, and depression. With Canada, Australia and possibly the USA moving to permit consumption of MDMA, we could see MDMA retreats popping up in these countries in the near future. If this is something that speaks to you, you may not have to wait much longer.

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About the Author

Cait has been writing since the age of 7, when she wrote her first short stories about two crime-fighting dogs. Although she has since strayed away from the canine detective genre, she still delights in writing about relationship psychology, travel, the psychoactive effects of cacao, intentional communities, nutrition, wellness, and more.

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