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Bill could open the door to legalize medical-use psychedelics in Utah

Posted at 3:06 PM, Jan 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-20 08:20:47-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Brady Brammer acknowledges he's not the type to run legislation on psychedelics.

"I’m kind of your typical Mormon guy and this hasn’t been an area that I’ve delved into personally," he said in an interview Wednesday with FOX 13. "But I do have a lot of empathy for those that are struggling with mental illness."

Rep. Brammer, R-Pleasant Grove, has filed House Bill 167, which creates a task force to explore whether psychedelics ought to be considered as a viable treatment option for mental health, PTSD and other issues.

"It doesn’t legalize anything. It asks our Huntsman Mental Health Institute and other experts in the field to review the science that’s out there, the research that’s out there, and make any recommendations that they have if they feel psychedelics can be safely administered through a prescription basis and under what circumstances," he said.

The bill is already being backed by one of the groups that got medical cannabis legalized in Utah.

"We have higher rates of depression and anxiety than a lot of other states and even for people that are looking for help, there’s not enough psychiatrists, there’s not enough mental health professionals to help them. And a lot of the medications aren't working," said Kylee Shumway, the medical director for the Utah Patients Coalition, which sponsored Proposition 2.

Research on psychedelics to treat mental illness is showing promise. Johns Hopkins has published a number of studies showing some positive outcomes.

"It’s very promising! There are some huge studies that have just been finished recently on psilocybin
that put it head to head against SSRIs which are anti-depressants and psilocybin performed better across the board," said Shumway.

Another supporter of the bill is former Utah State Senator Steve Urquhart.

"Psychedelics changed my life. It changed the way I see myself, the way I regard myself and that allows me to see others and love others a lot more," he said in an interview with FOX 13.

Urquhart, a former Republican lawmaker from St. George, has gone on to form The Divine Assembly, a church that can legally use psychedelics as part of its worship (thanks to a series of court rulings on controlled substances and religious freedom).

"I’ve always been a bit of an activist at heart and I decided I wanted to form a church where people can have these freedoms to worship with psychedelics. I tell people don’t get too lost on psychedelics, The Divine Assembly is about connection and psychedelics can help with that," he said.

Urquhart said he believed the Utah State Legislature could get behind HB167, given the deliberate steps being taken to explore the issue.

"I think this is a perfect step for good and bad," Urquhart said. "Remember, this is Utah. Of course, we’re likely to take a slower approach to something like this. But on things like this, when the process runs, when it works, Utah can kind of come up with some magic. I’m optimistic about this."

Rep. Brammer warned the bill would not lead to recreational psychedelics in Utah, nor was that his intent. He insisted that this is not any "slippery slope," that some lawmakers feared when Utah voters legalized medical cannabis.

"The world isn’t falling apart with medical cannabis and this is a very different type of treatment and would likely require more medical supervision than medical cannabis requires," he said.