In March 2022, the Italian government made Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis, the two principal ingredients of the Amazonian brew ayahuasca, Schedule I controlled substances. In addition, components of these plants (harmine and harmaline from B. caapi and DMT from P. viridis) are now controlled as well. Schedule I is a category created by the International Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 that includes components declared to have “no medical or scientific use” and pose a “high risk for public health"
This decision came after five police interventions were registered by the Department for Anti-Drug Policies (an agency instated to oversee drug-related policies by the Council of Ministers) between December 2019 and November 2021. Pavia’s Poison Control Centre had also reported two cases of intoxication related to the intake of harmine in 2011 and 2018. In the recent decree, the Italian Ministry also cites that ayahuasca has been illegal in France since 2005, in addition to non-specified arguments derived from scientific literature. Some drug policy reform groups have asked the Ministry to share bibliographic references for the evidence used in the decision.
This motion put forth by Health Minister Roberto Speranza was not anticipated, particularly since in 2009 the Cassation Court had ruled that ayahuasca was not illegal. The reason given for the policy change was that ayahuasca (as well as three of its components) presents “risks to public health.” Speranza made this decision in an effort to abide by “international obligations,” which was the same rationale that was used to block Italy’s cannabis referendum.