The governor of Utah on Tuesday signed a bill to create a task force to study and make recommendations on the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs and possible regulations for their lawful use.
Rep. Brady Brammer (R) first introduced the measure in January, and it cleared both chambers of the legislature with nearly unanimous support, passing the House in a vote of 68-1 and clearing the Senate with a 23-1 tally.
Gov. Spencer Cox (R) gave final approval to the measure on the deadline day for action.
“I am pleased to see the support from my colleagues and governor for this bill,” Brammer told Marijuana Moment. “It isn’t easy to set aside the stigma of psychedelics and explore their utility. I look forward to seeing the recommendations of the task force.”
There’s nothing in the text of the bill that explicitly references psychedelics, but it’s strongly implied—and Brammer has repeatedly throughout the legislative process described the measure as a tool to explore the use of substances such as psilocybin.
The bill will create a Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force that will be required to “study and make recommendations on drugs that may assist in treating mental illness.” The psychotherapy drugs that the panel will consider are defined as controlled substances that are “not currently available for legal use” and “may be able to treat, manage, or alleviate symptoms from mental illness.”
Brammer’s bill outlines who will be appointed to the task force, including a psychiatrist, psychologist, Utah Medical Association representative, a researcher, a patient with experience with psychotherapy drugs and more.
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“The task force shall provide evidence-based recommendations on any psychotherapy drug that the task force determines may enhance psychotherapy when treating a mental illness,” the text of the measure states.
Recommendations should touch on the types of symptoms that a given drug may treat, dosage and administration, training and licensing, how to obtain the substance, safety requirements, data tracking and “proposed regulations the Legislature should consider if the psychotherapy drug is made legal for treating mental illness.”
The task force will need to submit a report with its recommendations to the Health and Human Services Interim Committee by October 31.
Amid a mental health and drug overdose crisis, more lawmakers and activists are expressing interest in taking a new approach to treatment that might involve psychedelics. Others are more generally interested in decriminalizing or legalizing the substances.
For instance, a Missouri House committee on Monday held a hearing on a GOP-led bill to legalize a wide range of psychedelics for therapeutic use at designated care facilities while further decriminalizing low-level possession in general.
A Connecticut legislative committee approved a bill last week that would set the state up to provide certain patients with access to psychedelic-assisted treatment with substances like MDMA and psilocybin. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) signed a separate bill last year that includes language requiring the state to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms. A workgroup has since been meeting to investigate the issue.
A Maryland House of Delegates committee held a hearing last week on a bill to create a state fund that could be used to provide access to psychedelics like psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine for military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The Washington State legislature recently sent a budget bill to the governor’s desk that includes a proposal to direct $200,000 in funding to support a new workgroup to study the possibility of legalizing psilocybin services in the state, including the idea of using current marijuana regulatory systems to track psychedelic mushrooms.
This month, the Hawaii Senate approved a bill to set up a state working group to study the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin mushrooms and develop a “long-term” plan to ensure that the psychedelic is accessible for medical use for adults 21 and older.
Also this month, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill to decriminalize low-level possession of psilocybin and promote research into the therapeutic potential of the psychedelic.
A bipartisan coalition of Georgia lawmakers recently filed a resolution that calls for the formation of a House study committee to investigate the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and make recommendations for reforms.
Rhode Island lawmakers introduced a pair of drug decriminalization bills this month—including one focused on psilocybin and buprenorphine that would authorize doctors to prescribe the psychedelic mushroom.
An Oregon Senate committee also recently advanced a bill to ensure that equity is built into the state’s historic therapeutic psilocybin program that’s actively being implemented following voter approval in 2020.
A bill to decriminalize a wide array of psychedelics in Virginia was taken up by a House of Delegates panel in January, only to be pushed off until 2023. A separate Senate proposal to decriminalize psilocybin alone was later defeated in a key committee.
California Sen. Scott Wiener (D) told Marijuana Moment in a recent interview that his bill to legalize psychedelics possession stands a 50/50 chance of reaching the governor’s desk this year. It already cleared the full Senate and two Assembly committees during the first half of the two-year session.
Washington State lawmakers also introduced legislation in January that would legalize what the bill calls “supported psilocybin experiences” by adults 21 and older.
Meanwhile, a Pennsylvania bill meant to promote research into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms for certain mental health conditions may be in jeopardy, with the sponsor saying that the chair of a key House committee is expressing reservations even after the legislation was amended in an effort to build support.
New Hampshire lawmakers filed measures to decriminalize psilocybin and all drugs.
Legislation was also enacted by the Texas legislature last year requiring the state to study the medical risks and benefits of psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine for military veterans in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine and a military-focused medical center.
A pair of Michigan senators also introduced a bill in September to legalize the possession, cultivation and delivery of an array of plant- and fungi-derived psychedelics like psilocybin and mescaline.
In a setback for the movement, California activists on Wednesday announced that they have come up short on collecting enough signatures to qualify a measure to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for the state’s November ballot, though they aren’t giving up on a future election cycle bid.
Colorado activists, meanwhile, recently selected one of the four psychedelics reform ballot initiatives that they drafted and filed for the November ballot, choosing to proceed with a measure to legalize psilocybin, create licensed “healing centers” where people can use the psychedelic for therapeutic purposes and provide a pathway for record sealing for prior convictions. A competing campaign filed a different psychedelics legalization last month.
Michigan activists filed a statewide ballot initiative last month that would legalize possessing, cultivating and sharing psychedelics and set up a system for their therapeutic and spiritual use.
At the congressional level, bipartisan lawmakers sent a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) last month, urging that the agency allow terminally ill patients to use psilocybin as an investigational treatment without the fear of federal prosecution.