Following in the footsteps of Colorado and Oregon, Utah is the latest state to consider the benefits in therapy that psilocybin mushrooms can provide.
Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla, (D-Salt Lake City) unveiled Senate Bill 200 on Feb. 9, a bill that would legalize psilocybin mushrooms for medical use in Utah.
Deseret News reports that SB 200 would set up a program that mirrors the program behind Utah’s medical cannabis market. Utah’s compromise bill, the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, which was passed in 2018 allows patients with a healthcare provider’s verification, to purchase medical cannabis.
The bill would allow Utahns ages 21 and older to receive a psilocybin-assisted treatment directly from a psilocybin therapy provider. Qualifying conditions would include depression or anxiety if the patient has tried at least one other treatment route, PTSD, and people who are receiving hospice care.
Utah’s Republican-controlled Legislature will likely whittle down some of the bill’s provisions. Escamilla, for instance, said she’s prepared to propose changes to narrow the bill to a pilot program capped at only 5,000 participants. Escamilla compared the proposal to medical cannabis in the state.
“Cannabis has given us a really good opportunity to understand that we can use other natural things … to help us. Now, we have to be careful, and I think we have really good safeguards,” Escamilla said.
“This is not a free-for-all,” she said. “This is not for everyone, but if it’s for someone that is desperate (for help) with their anxiety, depression and PTSD—that’s pushing many, unfortunately, to suicide, I want them to have access in a way that’s safe, that we can regulate.”
“Seeing all the promising research, I really wanted to understand it better for myself,” Alaina Chatterley, a clinical social worker told Deseret News. “And I’ve had some traumas in my own life that I wanted to better understand.”
“It’s almost like finding the antidote, in my mind, to depression, to anxiety, because the antidote is (discovering) that you are ultimately powerful and ultimately lovable and loved and worthy,” she said. “And if you can find that antidote to depression and anxiety … you’ve gotten to the root cause, and everything else gets easier.”
Libertas Institute, a Utah-based libertarian think-tank, and the Utah Patients Coalition are backing the bill. “Many Utahns currently use psilocybin illegally and are seeing profound improvement in their mental health,” said Desiree Hennessy, executive director of the Utah Patients Coalition. “This medicine should be legalized so these patients don’t jeopardize their legal rights in pursuit of health.”
The bill would make significant changes to the state’s laws. ABC 4 news reports that currently in Utah, possession of psilocybin can result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years or a $5,000 in fine.
In 2022, the Utah Legislature passed House Bill 167, which called for the creation of a mental illness psychotherapy drug task force to review psilocybin mushroom research. The report issued by the task force found that psilocybin is safe and effective.
While the task force found psilocybin to be effective, the executive summary of the task force’s report reads that the “most rigorous and cost-effect approach to ensuring that the people of Utah have safe access to the most effective programs in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy would be to wait for the fast-track FDA rulings for psilocybin.”
Last month, non-profit Utah Mushroom Therapy launched a petition to encourage Utah legislators to pass a bipartisan bill that allows the legal use of psilocybin for clinical and academic purposes.
Escamilla hopes the proposal could be considered in a Utah Senate committee within about a week.