A Utah Senate committee on Tuesday approved a House-passed 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.
The Senate Health and Human Services Standing Committee cleared the legislation in a voice vote, with just one member opposing it. This comes about two weeks after the full House passed the measure from Rep. Brady Brammer (R) in a 68-1 vote.
“At the end of the day, we need effective tools to treat mental illness,” Brammer said at Tuesday’s committee hearing. “If psychedelics can be helpful and safely administered, we need them in our toolbox.”
The psychedelics bill would create a Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force, which 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.”
Brammer has previously 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.
He said on Tuesday that the task force would “help us stay ahead of things so that we know what we’re talking about as a legislature, because this is not going to be an issue that goes away.”
“We’re looking for evidence-based recommendations. If the evidence just isn’t there, if it’s too dangerous, if it’s not something that can be recommended and done so responsibly, that’s something that we’re going to have to discern,” he said. “But if we run away from the issue, I can tell you that we’re going to regret it later on.”
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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.”
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.
For example, an Oregon Senate committee 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.
Oklahoma lawmakers approved a bill in committee last week to decriminalize low-level possession of psilocybin and promote research into the therapeutic potential of the psychedelic.
A Hawaii Senate committee recently 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.
A group of Maryland senators recently filed a bill that would create a state fund that could be used to provide free access to psychedelics like psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine for military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while also supporting research into their therapeutic potential.
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 month, 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 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 month.
Michigan activists filed a statewide ballot initiative this month 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) last month, urging that the agency allow terminally ill patients to use psilocybin as an investigational treatment without the fear of federal prosecution.