All But 2 Utah Legislators Just Voted to Investigate the Psychotherapeutic Potential of Psychedelics

What is more tedious than a bill to establish a committee that will study a topic and make recommendations? But what if it is the psychotherapeutic use federally banned substances, such as LSD, psilocybin and MDMA. Imagine if all the legislators in Congress approved this bill? Utah?

It’s not so boring any more. H.B. The Utah House passed HB 167 on February 10, with a vote 68-1, and the Utah Senate by 23-1 last Friday. This is the latest indication of strangely new respect for drugs, once seen as a threat to the body and soul. Recent research, persistent advocacy, regulatory receptiveness and innovative ballot initiatives have led to substances once considered to be tickets to madhouses being viewed more as tools to improve mental health. Utah is no exception.

H.B. H.B. 167 has been placed on the Republican Governor’s desk. Spencer Cox has 167 on his desk. However, the majority of veto-proof supporters suggest that it will be made law regardless of its reception. According to Connor Boyack of Libertas Institute, President of the Libertas Institute who endorsed the bill, “We fully anticipate the governor signing the bill in the following weeks.” “This is a significant effort because nobody expects Utah will be a leader in this area of the issue. It’ll send a clear signal to all other states that legalization of psychotropic drugs is possible if the Beehive State can set an example for how it looks.

H.B. 167 would create a task force to “provide evidence-based recommendations on any psychotherapy drug that the task force determines may enhance psychotherapy when treating a mental illness.” The definition of “psychotherapy drug,” is a “controlled substance that may be used to manage or treat mental illnesses. A task force that would comprise experts from medicine, psychotherapy, addiction and pharmacology is charged with producing an October report.

Rep. Brady Brammer (R–Pleasant Grove), who introduced the bill in the House, concedes it is not the sort of legislation people might expect from a conservative Mormon. He said that he is a typical Mormon man and has not explored this area personally. “But, I do feel a lot empathy for those who struggle with mental illness.

Brammer stated to his coworkers that the task force would help him “stay ahead of things so we can know what we are talking about as legislators, because this issue isn’t going away.” Brammer stressed that research on the topic isn’t necessarily the same thing as approving legal access to psychotropic drugs.

Brammer explained that “we’re looking to evidence-based recommendations.” Brammer said, “If there is no evidence, if it seems too risky, if it can’t be recommended or done responsibly, then that’s what we will need to decide.” However, if we avoid the subject I can assure you we will regret it down the road.

FDA has approved psilocybin and MDMA for prescriptions to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. They have been classified by FDA as “breakthrough therapies”, meaning they could demonstrate significant improvements over other therapies when measured against one or more endpoints.

Oregon’s 2020 ballot initiative authorized “psilocybin services centers,” where adult 21-year-olds can legally use the drug after they have completed a preparation session. According to the initiative, state regulators will not need to require clients to have a diagnosis or to have a specific medical condition before they can provide psilocybin-related services.

Cities across the country, meanwhile, have approved quasi-decriminalization of psilocybin and, in some cases, other “entheogens” as well. Although these resolutions were not intended to repeal the criminal penalties, they asked police and prosecutors for their support in leaving psychedelic drug users alone.

While the Utah bill does not go as far as any of those measures, it opens the door to approval of “medical” use, which in the case of marijuana eventually led to broader legalization in 18 states that together account for more than two-fifths of the U.S. population. Utah is one of 37 states which allow cannabis to be used for pain relief. In 2018, Utah voters approved a medical marijuana initiative.

Boyack points out that although it took Utah five years to legalize marijuana, more than 40,000 people are currently enrolled in the program. This is nearly three times what Boyack predicted. According to Boyack, “Conservative lawmakers in Utah have witnessed how beneficial cannabis has been for thousands of patients.” And in a state where there is a significant amount of mental illness, and an acute shortage of care options, there’s plenty of desire to look at other solutions and determine if it can be used to treat mental illness as well as physical illness.

Boyack observes that the landscape is changing constantly. [for psychedelics] is much different than it was with cannabis,” since “hardly anyone knows what psilocybin is—and the only jurisdictions that have decriminalized it are deep blue.” He says that Utah could be considered a leader in this area if it focuses on the matter.