The Ayahuasca brew contains the psychoactive ingredient Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which is a controlled substance in many countries — a hard drug — and illegal to make, buy, possess, or distribute by the general public. It means that DMT is only available by prescription from a licensed medical professional.
Nonetheless, the cultivation, preparation, and ingestion of the plants that make up the Ayahuasca brew is legal in North, Central, and South American countries where it’s used in traditional Shamanic settings and ceremonies. This includes countries such as Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, and Brazil. Ayahuasca also seems to be legal in Mexico and in Costa Rica.
In many other countries, Ayahuasca is completely illegal, but in some others, like in Chile, Spain and Portugal, the situation is not always unambiguously clear. Sometimes Ayahuasca is “controlled” or “decriminalized,” albeit not fully legal. Moreover, legality or illegality can affect several aspects in relation to Ayahuasca, such as possession, sale, distribution, export, import, or cultivation of the plants.
In some countries, such as in the United States, Ayahuasca users can legally use Ayahuasca if it’s done in the context of an organized religion, which in many countries is protected by religious freedom laws. As such, people have registered a (branch of an) Ayahuasca church and use Ayahuasca as a sacred ceremony. By joining the church one is then lawfully allowed to drink Ayahuasca.
Nevertheless, laws around Ayahuasca have been proven to change regularly, and therefore it’s advised to always first check on the latest status of the legality of the drug before participating in an Ayahuasca ceremony or retreat in the country of your choice.
Mind also that many Ayahuasca retreats offer additional traditional healing modalities (sometimes even added to the Ayahuasca brew), such as treatments with the San Pedro Cactus, Peyote Cactus, or Bufo Alvarius Toad Medicine, which may or may not be illegal to use in the country you’re in.