This Senator Wants to Legalize Magic Mushrooms in Mexico

Alejandra Lagunes says that psilocybin mushrooms could be a benefit to the country's mental health crisis.
Mushrooms photo by Nathaniel Janowitz.  Right image courtesy of Alejandra Lagunes.
Mushrooms photo by Nathaniel Janowitz. 

Right image courtesy of Alejandra Lagunes.

MEXICO CITY—When Mexican Senator Alejandra Lagunes was in her late 20s, she was living in a world she describes as “gray” with depression and anxiety. 

“I didn’t feel anything. I didn't laugh, I didn’t cry,” she remembers now. 

She could barely get out of bed, or muster the will to eat. Her weight dropped to 34 kilos (75 pounds). Her doctor told her that amenorrhea would leave her unable to have kids. She thought that she was always going to be that sad girl who never did anything. 


When a cousin told her that a Peruvian shaman was coming to Mexico City with his “sacred medicine,” Ayahuasca, “it felt like a sign…I didn’t even have to think about it.” 

She took the Ayahuasca trip. The plant-based brew contains the psychedelic drug DMT, as well as other substances.

“My perspective of my own life changed. My mind changed. All my negative thinking patterns shifted. It was as though there was a different light illuminating my mind and I saw things differently. I stopped taking medication.

“It changed my life.”

Lagunes, who is now 51, is convinced that her region’s psychedelic “medicines”, and particularly psilocybin mushrooms, which are native to Mexico and have long been used by Indigenous communities here, could be the answer to her country’s mental health woes which worsened during the pandemic. 

“There isn’t a single meeting in the Senate that doesn’t mention the mental health crisis and the lack of medications to treat it,” she told VICE News in an interview. Lagunes is a member of Mexico’s Green Party but is planning to present the initiative independently.

But creating a legal framework for the use of psychedelic “medicine” promises to be a complex one to unpack in the Mexican context, in which Indigenous communities have been using them for thousands of years.


Lagunes told VICE News that she proposes to legalize psilocybin, moving it out of Mexico’s scheduled drug list, where it currently sits next to heroin, cocaine, and MDMA. She wants to pull Mexico into the “psychedelic renaissance” that is evolving in other parts of world, harnessing substances including psilocybin mushrooms, Ayahuasca, peyote, DMT and even MDMA as a cure for serious mental health conditions including PTSD, addiction, anxiety, depression and more. MDMA-assisted therapy could be approved by the U.S’s FDA in a matter of months. Self-medicating with magic mushrooms, ketamine, LSD, MDMA, Ayahuasca and other psychedelic substances to improve mental health has grown around the world in recent years,.

There is still a lot that isn’t known about the use of these substances, the risks, s and the benefits. But the ball to integrate them into mental health and therapy treatments has been rolling for years, especially in the U.S. and the U.K.


Lagunes was one of the thousands of attendees at this year’s Psychedelic Science conference in Denver, where the enthusiasm for the healing use of psychedelics was contagious. Mexico, which is already a psychedelic tourism mecca and home to a number of psychedelic substances including peyote, and DMT (also known as toad venom or Bufo) as well as magic mushrooms, is at risk of being left behind in the anticipated psychedelic therapy boom, both in terms of the potential public health gains as well as research and economic benefits.

The senator hopes her bill will put Mexico in a strong position to use these substances for healing, rather than recreational, use. She aims for the creation of a network of clinics that would combine contemporary therapy methods being rolled out in the U.S. and beyond with Indigenous wisdom and rituals that have been used by communities around Mexico for thousands of years.

If and when the bill is proposed and approved, it will be just the first step in a long and convoluted process of decriminalizing and regulating psilocybin, as has been the case with the country’s marijuana bill, which has stalled despite pressure from the Supreme Court. It could take years. Presidential elections next year also suggest that legislative progress on this issue will be slow.


Meanwhile, the use of magic mushrooms in Mexico is rife, and no longer confined to psychedelic tourism centers in Indigenous territories such as Huautla de Jiménez and San Jose del Pacifico in Oaxaca, which are exempt from Mexican laws prohibiting psilocybin mushroom use due to their cultural and religious history. Shrooming there is de facto legal, but the illegal market outside those areas in other parts of the country surged last year.

“From my point of view, the sales of chocohongos [psilocybin mushrooms packaged in chocolate bars] boomed last year, and now it has been steady but not booming per say,” according to a Mexico City dealer who spoke to VICE News on condition of anonymity. The price of psilocybin mushrooms fell from about $5,500 a kilo back then to half that today, they said. 

The dealer said that their clients have become increasingly interested in microdosing magic mushrooms as a means of improving their mental health, energy levels and cognitive function over the last few years, and that magic mushrooms provide natural alternatives to synthetic highs such as MDMA as concerns around adulteration of drugs made from chemicals grow.


How proposed legalization will be received by Mexico’s many indigenous communities is a major question mark hanging over this issue. Many were consulted about Lagunes’s bill, according to Zara Snapp, who runs Instituto RIA, which works on creating more human drug policies, amongst other issues, but a more comprehensive survey is essential to move forward. 

“Senator Lagunes is entering into a very complex territory in the sense that it is not the same to propose a bill to regulate and propose access to psilocybin here as it is in Oregon or Washington D.C, where they don’t have this cultural and pueblos originarios [indigenous peoples] aspect,” she said. The concerns and vulnerabilities of Indigenous populations in Mexico who have historical and sacred relationships with psychedelic substances need to be tackled in consultations with those communities. 

Preliminary conversations hinted at caution around the potential of psilocybin shrooms being decriminalized. 

The impact of psychedelic mushroom tourism in Indigenous communities like Huautla de Jiménez, deep in the Sierra Madre mountains, has been mixed, according to Osiris García Cerqueda, a Mazatec historian and academic from Huautla. He says the industry has generated conflict and disagreements as well as income for many of the residents and local shamans living in communities catering to psychedelic tourists. 


For many of these types of pueblos, where marginalization and poverty are common factors, and repression and abandonment by the state a historical fact, psychedelic tourism provides a valuable source of constant income.

“They are problems that require attention from the government, which has a historical debt with indigenous communities. They should dialogue with us, not impose themselves. Respect our lands, not appropriate our sacred and cultural symbols,” García Cerqueda.

For the Mazatecs, he said, mushrooms aren’t considered psilocybin, but “sacred beings that have a spirit, and mediate between the earthly world and the sacred.”

García Cerqueda was, like Lagunes and Snapp, also at the Psychedelic Sciences conference in Denver this year, albeit as a less enthusiastic participant. The issue of reciprocity was raised by Indigenous leaders and other attendees from around the world during the event. Many fear that their sacred medicines are now going mainstream without their communities being consulted or compensated for their use and traditional knowledge. 

Indigenous concerns about what legalization might mean for their future are justified. Huautla de Jiménez, where García Cerqueda is from, was where Maria Sabina, Mexico’s revered Mazatec mushroom healer, first introduced shrooms to the American Gordon Wasson, a banker for J.P. Morgan and mycology enthusiast, in the 1950s. Wasson convinced Sabina to let him and a photographer experience and document her rituals, promising to keep her identity and location a secret. But Wasson betrayed Sabina’s trust, and a Life Magazine article that was published in 1957 largely broke the story of magic mushrooms to the Western world. Foreigners began to flock to Huautla to experience them, and Sabina was blamed and ostracized by the community as a result. 

“What does reciprocity mean beyond just money?” said Snapp. Both she and García Cerqueda emphasized the need for there to be open conversations with communities around the country to answer that question. 

García Cerqueda also cautioned against the idea that psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelic medicines are the solution to the world’s mental health woes.

“I think the urgency for the use of psychedelics like psilocybin is in response to a social fatigue, a desperation from a society living under pressure to fulfill social, political and economic standards. 

“But we should be critical of our realities - it’s irresponsible to think that the solution to all of our problems is the consumption of mushrooms, ayahuasca, DMT [and other psychedelics].”