Utah Lawmakers Vote To Study Benefits Of Psychedelics In Treating Mental Health Disorders
A Utah House committee approved a bill on Thursday that would create a task force to study and make recommendations on the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs and possible regulations for their lawful use.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Brady Brammer (R), passed the House Health and Human Services Committee in a 10-1 vote.
The bill would create a Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force that would be required to “study and make recommendations on drugs that may assist in treating mental illness.” The psychotherapy drugs that the panel would 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.”
The substitute version of the measure that was approved would make certain changes to who would be part of the task force, adding a licensed pharmacist and removing representatives from a civil liberties group and mental health association.
Brammer has recognized that as a conservative Mormon, he might not be the most likely candidate to carry a psychedelics bill, but he’s closely studied the existing research and determined that there are “indications of treatment benefits for treatment resistant depression, PTSD, addiction and existential distress” through the use of certain entheogenic substances.
“The use of psychedelics has been studied for those types of treatments,” the representative said at Thursday’s hearing. “I thought, if this is a tool that can help, we need it in our toolbox—but it needs to be safe, and we need to do it the right way.”
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He emphasized the the measure “does not legalize anything.”
“It forms the task force,” he said, “and its purpose is to provide evidence-based recommendations.”
The bill says the panel’s 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.”
Brammer said that he’s received significant feedback since introducing the legislation, and he acknowledged that these types of treatment “are already happening underground.”
“I was surprised how many people are reaching out and saying, ‘hey, you know, I’ve already done this and it helped me,’ and we don’t want to have people self-prescribing illicit drugs.”
“We have a very significant medical tourism in this where people—a lot of counselors are already sending people down to Mexico or down to other other jurisdictions,” he said. “If that is happening, and they’re finding good results, I much prefer that they do it safely and they do it here, if we can do it that way.”
This is one of the latest example of psychedelics reform reaching state legislatures, including those that are traditionally conservative, as the local decriminalization movement continues to spread and more people are made aware of research into the therapeutic potential of these substances.
Two Republican Oklahoma lawmakers recently filed bills meant to promote research into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin, and one of the measures would further decriminalize low-level possession of the psychedelic.
A Republican Missouri lawmaker introduced a bill last month to give residents with serious illnesses legal access to a range of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin, ibogaine and LSD through an expanded version of the state’s existing right-to-try law.
A bill to decriminalize a wide array of psychedelics in Virginia was taken up by a House of Delegates panel last week, only to be pushed off until 2023. A separate Senate proposal to decriminalize psilocybin alone was defeated in a key committee on Monday.
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 last month that would legalize what the bill calls “supported psilocybin experiences” by adults 21 and older.
New Hampshire lawmakers filed measures to decriminalize psilocybin and all drugs.
Last year, the governor of Connecticut signed legislation that includes language requiring the state to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms.
Similar legislation was also enacted by the Texas legislature, 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.
Activists in Colorado recently filed revised versions of 2022 ballot initiatives to similarly legalize psilocybin and establish “healing centers” in the state. A competing campaign filed a different psychedelics legalization last week.
Michigan activists filed a statewide ballot initiative this week that would legalize possessing, cultivating and sharing psychedelics and set up a system for their therapeutic and spiritual use.
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.
At the congressional level, bipartisan lawmakers sent a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) this month, urging that the agency allow terminally ill patients to use psilocybin as an investigational treatment without the fear of federal prosecution.
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Photo courtesy of Dick Culbert.