Non-profit leads push to legalize psychedelics in Utah

Posted at 8:56 AM, Jan 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-05 15:22:45-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A bigger push to legalize psychedelics in Utah is coming from grassroots efforts in The Beehive State.

Utah Mushroom Therapy, a new non-profit, is working to garner public support through this online petition.

It calls on Utah legislators to pass a bill that permits psilocybin use for clinical and academic purposes. It also provides protection for those practicing under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

"I hope nobody mistakes this for an effort or an excuse to do illegal drugs. This is not what this is about. This is about bringing it to people who need it, in [a] mental health crisis," according to its Bridger Lee Jensen, founder of Utah Mushroom Therapy.

Jensen, a Utah native, says he began pushing harder for its legalization after the State of Utah passed a bill in 2022, which created the Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force to study psychedelics including psilocybin.

Their findings were presented to the Utah Legislature for consideration last October.

"I understand why people are anxious to get access to these medications,” said Dr. Anna Beck, oncologist and director of end-of-life care at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.

Beck is currently involved in a clinical study that examines the effect psilocybin has on cancer patients who experience anxiety and depression. The results are scheduled to be published early this year.

She says her team needed Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval to conduct this research.

"I think the psilocybin and these kinds of medications are going to be helpful for patients regardless of whether they have cancer or not,” Beck said.

However, she says our state should proceed with caution when legalizing the Schedule 1 drug. While an overdose is highly unlikely, psychedelics like psilocybin can alter a person’s sense of reality. For that reason, they must be administered in an appropriate set and setting for them to be therapeutic.

"I think the path forward with these medications is on a federal level. I think they need to be introduced through the FDA,” explained Beck when Fox 13 News asked how the state should proceed with legalizing the substance.

As for Jensen, with Utah Mushroom Therapy, he plans to present his petition to the Utah State Legislature on February 18th.