Drugs in Peru: The Laws of Possession

According to Article 299 of the Peruvian penal code, possession of drugs is not punishable if possessed for personal and immediate consumption in quantities not exceeding:

  • two grams of cocaine hydrochloride
  • five grams of cocaine basic paste (pasta básica de cocaína)
  • eight grams of marijuana or two grams of derivatives
  • one gram of opium latex or 200 milligrams of derivatives
  • two hundred and fifty milligrams of ecstasy, containing methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), methamphetamine or similar substances.

Importantly, Article 299 states that the possession of two or more types of drugs is a punishable offence. Carrying two different types of drugs — regardless of quantity — is definitely not a good idea.

Drugs in Peru: Buyer Beware…

The quantities listed in Article 299 may seem clear-cut and relatively lenient. The way in which Peruvian police officials interpret and carry out these laws, however, is a far more complicated and inconsistent concept.

In “Legislation on Drugs and the Prison Situation in Peru,” Ricardo Soberón Garrido, a Peruvian lawyer and the director of the Drugs and Human Rights Research Center in Lima, states:

“Although possession for personal use has not been declared punishable by the original statutes or the subsequent reforms, the law does not establish precise criteria for police action, leaving room for police discretion, frequent cases of corruption, and abuse of persons who possess drugs merely for their own use.”

In reality, the possession of an illegal drug — regardless of quantity — can lead to serious problems. There’s a degree of “guilty until proven innocent” within the Peruvian system. When combined with poorly trained and sometimes corrupt police officials, this can turn what should be a slap on the wrist into one big punch in the face (metaphorically speaking).

In practice, Peruvian police treat drug possession as a crime, even if you are in possession of amounts that, by law, are not punishable. According to Soberón Garrido:

“…police officials prefer to consider those who possess drugs to be potential traffickers, determining their legal situation only when they get to the police station, which can entail flagrant cases of unlawful detention.”

The standard allowable period of police detention is a maximum of 24 hours — more than enough to seriously ruin your time in Peru. For drug-related offenses, however, the police detention period is extended to a maximum of 15 days. If the police suspect any involvement in trafficking, prepare yourself for a long stay.

Drug Trafficking in Peru

If you are suspected of trafficking, then get ready for a truly awful experience. Peruvian prisons are hellish, and a drug trafficking charge could see you locked up for six months before a judge even hears your case. If you are then found guilty, you can expect a minimum sentence of three years. If you are considering smuggling drugs out of Peru… well, you’re an idiot.

Drugs in Peru: “Just Say No Gracias”

To state the obvious: the best way to avoid drug-related problems is to stay clear of illegal substances while you’re in Peru. It’s not really worth the risk. But if you can’t hold back — if you really need a sly smoke — be very careful.

But who needs illegal drugs when you’ve got plenty of alternatives to try? There’s cheap beer and plenty of pisco in Peru. You can have fun making your head numb with coca leaves. Or you can head to the jungle and knock back half a pint of ayahuasca. All good, clean fun… and totally legal.


Legislation on Drugs and the Prison Situation in Peru” — Ricardo Soberón Garrido

Normativa Peruana en Materia de Tráfico Ilícito de Drogas” — Ministerio Público de Perú

  12 comments for “Drugs in Peru: The Laws of Possession

  1. Karl
    May 13, 2012 at 9:02 am

    It’s 2 grams of cocaine
    and 5 grams of cocaine hydrochloride paste

    • May 13, 2012 at 9:55 am

      Thanks Karl, well spotted. Correction made.

      • Karl
        May 14, 2012 at 10:20 am

        No problem, I like this blog, it’s better that ohter, I know becouse I used to live i Peru for many yerars, I’m, swedish, thats why I cant spell, lol.

  2. Legion
    October 23, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Please anyone who any police department in lima should have me with their contact we have a friend that has problem there

    • October 24, 2014 at 12:16 pm

      Hi. There’s an interactive map with all the station addresses and numbers at the National Police website: https://www.pnp.gob.pe/

      Alternatively, try contacting the Tourist Police. One of these numbers should work for their central office: 460 1060 or 460 0844.

      • barry
        November 16, 2014 at 3:10 pm

        Thanks well good advice

  3. brightt
    October 25, 2014 at 6:14 am

    tony thanks for ur help but i did called the numbers but couldnt get anyone, pls do you have any other form of contact like email or direct web i can use to reach them, and thanks once again

    • October 25, 2014 at 2:20 pm

      No, sorry. Have a look on the website or go talk to a Tourist Police officer (they have white uniforms).

      • barry
        November 16, 2014 at 3:12 pm

        Thanks well good advice . the ones in a white will help you .did they speak english. and help you out of a jam or tell you the rules

    December 23, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    I would like to move to Peru one day. On private property how much Cannabis can you grow? I figured once free from the jU.S.A. I could make medicines to cure cancer. Use the profit’s to help people get clean water.

    • Ana
      January 3, 2017 at 7:57 am

      Hey Patrock, in Peru it is still illegal to grow Cannabis, regardless if it is a private property or not. The legally amount allowed is 8 grams, which is considered to be for personal and immediate use, any amount over that will be considered illegal, as it leads authorities to think it might “drug dealing” case.
      The legalization of Marihuana for medical purposes in Peru is still a pending matter, however you can now find cannabis oil at some “eco-markets”, which has been proven to help the treatment for different diseases.

  5. Bali Molly
    January 25, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    How do pharmacies operate there? Do you require a prescription for things like oxycodone & hydrocodone? I knew of one online Peruvian pharmacy that was selling OxyContin & other meds for dirt cheap. Can you just walk in & get whatever you want at some pharmacies, or will asking get you thrown in jail? And how hard is it to get a doctor to write a prescription for whatever you want, if one is required?

    Just always been curious about this. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *