Center for Medical Cannabis Research To Open at University of Utah

The University of Utah recently confirmed that it’s starting the early planning phases to build a Center for Medical Cannabis Research. House Bill 230, which was passed by the House and the Senate, was signed by Utah Gov. Spencer Cox on March 15.

According to bill sponsor Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost, HB-230 will expand the state’s ability to conduct research and offer up scientific-backed information. Specifically in reference to the opening of a medical cannabis research center at the University of Kentucky in September 2022, Dailey-Provost believes it’s time for Utah to do so as well. “I figured if Kentucky can do it … we can create one in Utah as well,” she said, according to The Daily Utah Chronicle.

She added that previously, Utah legislators have been listening to studies conducted from out of state, rather than conducting their own research from within. “What we hear from providers, especially physicians, nurse practitioners, PAs who can recommend [cannabis] as a medication is that they just don’t feel like they have enough information to really confidently recommend this as part of a comprehensive health care plan,” Dailey-Provost said.

The main goal of the Utah-based Center for Medical Cannabis Research is to become a hub that monitors all research being conducted in the state, as well as “identify gaps in patient accessibility, and support researchers and going out and finding grounds, doing the work, talking to other states about what work is going on.”

Eventually, Dailey-Provost also wants the state to have a National Institute of Health-approved (NIH) medical cannabis cultivation site. “There are only six in the nation that grow medical grade cannabis that is eligible for study by NIH grants,” she said. “I think Utah with its robust agricultural heritage, we have an opportunity to maybe be a center for meeting those needs for research being done at the National Institutes of Health.”

The passage of HB-230 also includes $650,000 to fund the Center for Medical Cannabis Research, which comes from the Department of Health’s Qualified Patient Enterprise Fund. According to University of Utah Associate Vice President Dr. Rachel Hess, they want to ensure that they do everything they can to help usher in this new era of medical cannabis research. “Obviously, everything can’t be accomplished in one year, but the legislature has really made a longitudinal commitment, so ensuring that the science that is prepared to go…can go in the first year and then staging subsequently after that are the key steps…to ensure that we really are able to deliver on the promise of this vision,” said Hess.

More importantly, the Center for Medical Cannabis Research will open up research opportunities for other universities as well. “I think that’s going to be really important to communicate with all of the institutions across Utah about, about this work that the legislature is sponsoring and then bringing together that community to form those collaborations to move this work forward,” Hess added.

The plan for the Center for Medical Cannabis Research’s year will begin with a focus on up-and-coming research initiatives. The second year will be an opportunity for researchers to begin planning ahead. Ultimately, Hess concluded that she’s very proud of the new opportunity. “We really feel like Utah can lead in many ways in this area and are just really proud of the forward-thinking nature of creating something like this,” she said.

While medical cannabis embarks on a new journey with the university research center, psilocybin is also taking center stage. Last month, a psilocybin mushroom bill was introduced in Utah, which would emulate regulations similar to the state’s medical cannabis program. It would allow psilocybin therapy to be legal for patients with qualifying conditions. “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,” said Senate Majority Leader Luz Escamilla.

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Psilocybin Mushroom Bill Introduced in Utah

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.

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Utah Group Aims To Legalize Shrooms in the State

A group in Utah is out to legalize psilocybin in the state. 

The aptly named non-profit Utah Mushroom Therapy has launched a petition to “strongly encourage Utah legislators to pass a bipartisan bill that allows the legal use of psilocybin for clinical and academic purposes, and includes protection for individuals practicing under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” 

Utah Mushroom Therapy says it intends to present the petition to members of the state Senate next month. The group’s efforts come almost a year after the state’s Republican governor, Spencer Cox, signed a bill that created a task force to study the use of psychedelics as a mental health treatment. 

According to the group, the creation of the task force means that “legalizing and decriminalizing Psilocybin in Utah is now very likely but still needs public support.”

Utah Mushroom Therapy outlines a number of reasons why it backs the legalization of mushrooms for therapy and research, arguing that it could improve mental health and support spiritual practice. 

“Numerous robust studies have shown that psilocybin therapy is beneficial in reducing treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, addiction, trauma, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other mental health disorders. It is more effective than synthetic pharmaceuticals by a large margin. Psilocybin has also shown effectiveness in easing fear and anxiety in people with terminal cancer. For instance, a groundbreaking study performed by John Hopkins Medicine found that psilocybin reported better moods and greater mental health after participating in a single clinical dose,” the group says on its website. 

“The use of mushrooms has been documented in 15 indigenous groups in America and various religious communities in Utah. This petition supports those groups who wish to use psilocybin safely, sincerely, and as a necessary part of their religion. The use of psilocybin does not contradict other Utah cultures and is protected by the first amendment as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This petition is to advocate Utah law to protect the religious rights of Utahns,” the group continued. 

In addition, the group says that legalization of shrooms would reduce criminality and would serve as a safe and effective treatment.

“Psilocybin is a natural, non-toxic substance. Despite this, it is currently a Schedule I substance. Scientists have demonstrated it has profound medicinal value and believe serotonergic hallucinogens assist cognitive processes and should be decriminalized. Psychedelics can change perception and mood, help people soften their perspective and outlook, and process events that may otherwise lead to substance abuse, trauma, and criminal behavior,” the group says on its website. 

“Psilocybin mushrooms are considered one of the least toxic medicines known to man. Recorded cases of death exclusively attributed to psilocybin mushrooms are extremely rare. To put this in perspective, Internationally, there were 30,811 deaths from antidepressants between 2015 and 2020,” the group added. 

In urging Utah voters to sign, the group stresses that the “petition is in no way an endorsement of illegal drug use.”

“By signing this petition, you are supporting the safe and legal use of Psilocybin, a naturally occurring compound,” the group says. 

Psilocybin and hallucinogenics represent the next frontier in the legalization movement, as state and local officials increasingly reconsider the once taboo substances.

On New Year’s Day, Oregon became the first state in the U.S. to legalize psilocybin use for adults after voters there approved a ballot measure in 2020. 

That proposal, Measure 109, “allowed local authorities to opt out of Measure 109 by forwarding to voters either two-year moratoriums or bans on psilocybin services,” the Oregon Capital Chronicle reported in November.

“Authorities in 27 Oregon counties and 114 cities and towns asked voters to consider two-year moratoriums or bans. Among the latter, only two – Phoenix in Jackson County and Wheeler in Tillamook County – authorized psilocybin services,” the outlet said. “Nevertheless, most of Oregon’s most populous counties and cities have cleared the way for psilocybin production by authorized facilities. Supporters of psilocybin services say that therapy with the hallucinogen will be locally available to nearly 3 million Oregon residents beginning in 2023. In all, 17 of Oregon’s 20 most populous cities are allowing psilocybin services along with 11 Oregon counties.”

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Borosyndicate Showcases World-Class Glass Artists

Borosyndicate—a brick-and-mortar glass art gallery and retail location, complete with a separate glassblowing facility—produces its own brand of items as well as known glass brands.

The gallery and storefront features a Hall of Fame of glassblowing artists known for various styles, characters, and techniques. You’ll find legends like Ryan O’Keefe, Steve Sizelove, Peter Muller, Lord, Jeff Green, and Jeff Smart. (See examples below.)

Glassblowing art is steeped in tradition within the cannabis and art worlds, beginning with pioneers like Bod Snodgrass and Jason Harris (Jerome Baker Designs). This type of art dates back to the 1970s and gained popularity later on with spoons, bubblers, Sherlocks, hammers, waterpipes, rigs, and so on. Artists frequently push the boundaries of what animals, characters, and shapes can be created for functional art.

Borosyndicate is where glass becomes fine art: People pay top dollar for creations made by the artists with the most cred and the pieces with the most features like percolators or diffusers. On the top shelf areas, you’ll find high-end fine glass with brands like Illadelph and Dawnk Glass. But you can find artistically-inspired spoon pipes, heavy with marbles and colorful swirl features, for bargain prices. No two are alike.

Kenny Holliday opened the Salt Lake City, Utah-based operation Borosyndicate Productions many years ago, with the retail store Borosyndicate. Holliday himself is mostly self-taught in the art of glassblowing and helps set up apprenticeships for glassblowing students.

“Borosyndicate has been in business for over 15 years,” Holliday told High Times. The gallery and storefront retains high ratings online, with testimonials going back years.

Borosilicate glass is often preferred because of its ability to withstand thermal variation and mostly, its sheer strength and resistance to shatter breaks. The breakability factor is an important thing to consider when purchasing fine glass. Heavier pipes and waterpipes tend to last longer than cheap imitations.

“The scientific name of the type of glass we work with is borosilicate,” he said. “We took a spin on the name and changed it to Borosyndicate. We are a like-minded group of artists who all have the same interests which is making art out of borosilicate glass. Hence the reason for syndicate instead of silicate.”

While other glass retail joints come and go, Borosyndicate has lasted for the long haul. “When COVID first started we thought we were going to shut down and no one was going to come in, but we were fortunate enough to have an incredible staff that were more than willing to come to work every day without missing a beat,” he said. “Our loyal and amazing patrons supported us more than ever during that difficult time which helped us tremendously get through the worst part of the pandemic.”

The operation opened multiple locations throughout the years. “We did have two locations, but unfortunately, we recently had to close one location due to the landlord turning the building into climate-controlled storage,” Holliday said. “At the moment, we have one brick-and-mortar retail location as well as a separate glassblowing facility where all of our in-house glass is created. We are working on getting a second retail location open again very soon.”

You can purchase directly through the website or Borosyndicate’s Instagram @borosyndicate. You can also find other needed accessories such as grinders, scales, dab pads, and so forth.

The Artists of Borosyndicate

Check out the current roster of a handful of standouts at the Borosyndicate gallery, where you can get a showpiece to display on the mantle.

Ryan O’Keefe (@sdryno)

Photo by Borosyndicate graphic designer, Angelo Riga, RIP.

Steve Sizelove (@steve_sizelove)

Photo by Borosyndicate graphic designer, Angelo Riga, RIP.

Peter Muller (@mullerglass)

Photo by Borosyndicate graphic designer, Angelo Riga, RIP.

Lord (@jsynlord)

Photo by Borosyndicate graphic designer, Angelo Riga, RIP.

Jeff Green (@jeffgreenglass)

Photo by Borosyndicate graphic designer, Angelo Riga, RIP.

Jeff Smart (@jsmartglass)

Photo by Borosyndicate graphic designer, Angelo Riga, RIP.

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Medical Pot in Utah Costs Right Around National Average

Lawmakers in Utah met on Monday to go over the cost of medical cannabis in the state. The gist: patients there are paying no more or no less than what they would in other states where the treatment is also legal.

Local news station KUER reports that the meeting was part of the state legislature’s Medical Cannabis Governance Structure Working Group, which “listened to presentations on the analysis from the Utah Cannabis Association, Utah Cannabis Co-Op and the Center for Medical Cannabis under the Utah Department of Health and Human Services.”

The group of lawmakers compared “the cost of three cannabis products in Utah to 19 other states with medical marijuana programs,” KUER reported, and concluded that “Utahns are forking over about the average price for cannabis flower (bud), gummies and vape cartridges.”

“We were asked when working with the policy analysts to compare apples to apples, but with all of the different nuances in the different states, it really is a difficult task,” said Alyssa Smailes with Utah Cannabis Association, as quoted by KUER, who along with Utah Cannabis Co-Op “selected 19 states with various cannabis markets in different stages of progress to compare with Utah.”

The groups collected data from the “last week of July for other states and all products available for sale in Utah in July 2022,” for the three most common products: Vape Carts (38% of sales); Flower (35%); and Gummies (25%).

Scott Erikson of Utah Cannabis Co-Op told the lawmakers, “he isn’t sure why Utah’s flower market is noticeably lower than the 36 other states with medical cannabis programs,” KUER reported.

“Most states the amount of flower is over 50%. Some states it’s as high as 60%,” Erikson said, as quoted by the station. “There are all sorts of speculation as to why.”

One theory, per KUER, “is the cultural influence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” which “doesn’t approve of smoking tobacco products but has said the use of marijuana is permitted under medical circumstances.”

Voters in Utah passed a measure legalizing medical cannabis treatment in 2018.

Patients with the following conditions may qualify for the treatment there: HIV or acquired immune deficiency syndrome; Alzheimer’s disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; cancer; cachexia; persistent nausea that is not significantly responsive to traditional treatment, except for nausea related to pregnancy; cannabis-induced cyclical vomiting syndrome; cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome; Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis; epilepsy or debilitating seizures; multiple sclerosis or persistent and debilitating muscle spasms; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that is being treated and monitored by a licensed health therapist, and that has been diagnosed by a healthcare provider by the Veterans Administration and documented in the patient’s record or has been diagnosed or confirmed by evaluation from a psychiatrist, masters prepared psychologist, a masters prepared licensed clinical social worker, or a psychiatric APRN; autism; a terminal illness when the patient’s life expectancy is less than six months; a condition resulting in the individual receiving hospice care; a rare condition or disease that affects less than 200,000 individuals in the U.S., as defined in federal law, and that is not adequately managed despite treatment attempts using conventional medications (other than opioids or opiates) or physical interventions; pain lasting longer than two weeks that is not adequately managed, in the qualified medical provider’s opinion, despite treatment attempts using conventional medications other than opioids or opiates or physical interventions.

Earlier this year, lawmakers in Utah passed a bill that protects medical cannabis patients in the state against discrimination in health care and public employment.

“What this bill does is it provides some clarity to what the legislative intent was… in recognizing medical cannabis as a legitimate use of cannabis for treating certain ailments such as chronic pain,” the bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. Joel Ferry, said at the time.

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Inside the Mind of a Medical Cannabis Pharmacist in Utah

In Utah, dispensaries are referred to as pharmacies, and the method of which patients must apply for and obtain cannabis medicine differs. While the state of Utah is home to over three million people, only 15 pharmacies and eight cultivators are allowed to legally operate there.

Pharmacists are essential to the structure of Utah’s medical cannabis program, as they are legally the only way that medical cannabis patients can obtain cannabis products. Beehive Farmacy’s Pharmacist in Charge, Mindy Madeo, has been a pharmacist for over 20 years, but found a new calling to enter the cannabis industry after the state of Utah legalized medical cannabis. Madeo attended the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy’s cannabis program, which she will soon be graduating with a Masters of Science in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics. It’s currently the only pharmacy school in the U.S. to offer such a degree, and furthermore, Madeo is one of the only people in Utah to have earned such a distinction.

Madeo took time to chat with High Times about what sets Utah apart from other states’ medical cannabis programs, the influence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), and what the future holds for patients.

Courtesy of Mindy Madeo

The Essential Pharmacist

When Madeo began her entrance into the cannabis industry, she helped one of the pharmacies, called Wholesome, open up shop. While that pharmacy was a bit more business-focused, Madeo then moved on to Beehive Farmacy where she currently works as Pharmacist in Charge. Beehive Farmacy has two locations out of the total 15 that are allowed statewide, one in Salt Lake City and another in Brigham City. “It’s been really amazing,” Madeo said of her role. “The work I do every day is really like my dream. I’ve been doing it for two years and I still say I would do it even if I wasn’t getting paid.”

Madeo explained how Utah’s medical cannabis program works for patients. Similarly to other states, patients must go to a doctor and obtain a recommendation for a cannabis card—but new patients can’t just go to a pharmacy to pick up their medicine right away. “It is required by law that every single patient that’s new to the cannabis program, has to sit down and have a consultation with the pharmacist. And that’s the unique thing. That’s the thing that no other state does,” Madeo explained. “And it’s expensive to run as a business to do that, but the results are just phenomenal.”

These consultations only take an average of 30 minutes, during which pharmacists like Madeo will ask their patient which medications they currently take. “I’ve noticed as I was doing this that it’s not just the pain pills,” she shared. “It’s stimulants, like the Adderall and Ritalin in the morning that people can come off of. It’s the sleeping pills at night. It’s the antidepressants. It’s the stomach meds. I’ve even had I’ve even had quite a few patients come off of blood pressure medications.” After identifying their patient’s needs, pharmacists recommend various cannabinoid combination products, or different cultivars or terpene profiles, to use as a treatment.

Madeo also notes the importance of teaching new patients how to control their dosage, what to do if they consumed a bit too much, and for regular consumers, how to reset tolerance or reassess their current medication. “So I think giving patients control of their pain, control of their health, where they’re able to increase or decrease or try different products is very empowering for people. And I wish more medicine would be like that.”

The LDS Church

Aside from regular curious customers, Madeo has also witnessed the shift in perspective by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and its members. “In Utah, it’s amazing because the LDS church, at first was not on board. There was a lot of controversy,” she said of the church’s initial stance on cannabis. “And then they changed some policy saying like ‘You can’t have cannabis.’ And then they changed it again and saying ‘It’s fine if it’s with a doctor.’ So currently, it’s 100% fine as long as the doctor recommends it. And I am seeing so many old people, so many people that come in [and] you can tell [that] they’re Mormon, they’re wearing CTR rings. Their minds are changing. And to me, that in itself is just an amazing thing to watch.”

Expanding Legislation in Utah

Utah initially passed its medical cannabis legislation when former Gov. Gary Hubert signed House Bill 195 into law in March 2018, which allows patients the “right to try” cannabis as a treatment if they are terminally ill. Later in November 2018, Utah voters approved Proposition 2, which created the foundation for the state’s current medical cannabis program. The state’s program launched in March 2020, and now there are an estimated 41,000 medical cannabis patients in the state, as of January 2022.

Cannabis isn’t the only medical treatment that legislators are contemplating when it comes to access. In the 2022 legislative session, Utah legislators passed House Bill 167, also called the Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force, which will review studies about psychedelic substances being used as a treatment for medical patients. Substances such as psilocybin therapy, or even the use of MDMA, are being used to treat certain medical conditions.

Ultimately, Madeo sees a bright future for the medical patients of Utah, and those who aren’t currently patients but are becoming curious about how cannabis can help. However, there are still many hurdles to overcome. “In Utah, and probably in the whole country is, right now we sit and we differentiate between medical use and recreation[al] use, right? That word ‘recreation’ is a terrible word. We should be calling it ‘adult-use.’ But we still use “rec.” To me, that’s such a judgment call, and I don’t think there’s much of a difference between the two.”

Madeo commented on the judgmental attitude of laws in Utah, from limitations on advertisements or restriction on anything that is Rastafarian inspired, such as colors or designs. “To me, they’re trying to whitewash the plant that we’ve been using forever,” she said.

But this judgement also extends to consumers as well. “We’re somehow like targeting this culture that we think we’re judging them and we’re saying, ‘You have dreadlocks, you are using concentrate … you’re using too high of a dose, so you’re a rec patient.’ That person could have anxiety, they could have cancer. Give me five minutes with someone who you say is rec and I’ll find a medical reason why they’re using it.”

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Utah Lawmakers Pass Bill To Protect Medical Cannabis Patients

Utah lawmakers have approved a bill to protect the rights of medical cannabis patients employed by government agencies. Under the bill, SB46, the state and local governments would be required to treat medical cannabis recommendations the same as prescriptions for other controlled substances. 

The legislation provides protection from discrimination in health care and public employment for medical cannabis patients. Republican Rep. Joel Ferry, the House floor sponsor of the bill, said that the law is designed to protect patients legally using cannabis under Utah’s Medical Cannabis Act, which was passed by voters in 2018.

“What this bill does is it provides some clarity to what the legislative intent was… in recognizing medical cannabis as a legitimate use of cannabis for treating certain ailments such as chronic pain,” said Ferry, as quoted by the Deseret News.

The legislation was approved by the Utah House of Representatives on Wednesday by a vote of 68-4 after passing by a margin of 26-1 in the state Senate last month. The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Spencer Cox for final approval.

Medical Cannabis Patient Who’s a Firefighter Was Suspended

Utah lawmakers drafted the legislation after an Ogden firefighter was suspended without pay in September of last year for refusing to surrender his medical marijuana card. The firefighter, Levi Coleman, subsequently filed a lawsuit against the city and the fire department, arguing that the action violated the Medical Cannabis Act.

The legislation received nearly unanimous approval in both houses of the Utah legislature. Republican Rep. Timothy Hawkes was one of the four to vote against the bill in the House. Hawkes said he feared the bill would give a “get out of jail free card” to people who use “street marijuana” recreationally.

Some lawmakers expressed reservations that the bill would allow public employees to work while high. The legislation has no effect on private employers.

But Ferry told his colleagues in the House on Wednesday that the legislation does not prevent public agencies from disciplining employees who are intoxicated or impaired while on the job. 

“We already have extensive provisions for… people where medical cannabis interferes with their ability to do their job, that’s all in the law,” agreed Republican Rep. Norm Thurston. “All this says is, the simple, additional act of seeking a card is not going to subject you to being fired from your job.”

Rep. Kera Birkeland, also a Republican, said that she appreciated those concerned about public employees working under the influence of medical cannabis.

“But if we wanted to go down every controlled substance that we have and talk about abuse, every profession, and everybody would be at times possibly abusing,” Birkeland said, adding, “I mean, I’ll be honest, sometimes I take two muscle relaxers when I’m only supposed to take one, right?”

“We don’t come down on that,” she continued. “I think we need to let people work through this issue with their physicians and support and provide education and training on how to not abuse substances, instead of just saying, ‘You might abuse this and so we’re not going to let you have this drug and have this profession.’”

Other lawmakers noted that the bill was contrary to federal law, which still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance. But Republican Rep. Ken Ivory said the bill is a matter of states’ rights under the U.S. Constitution and that Utah is protecting its citizens’ interests despite the position of the federal government.

“The founders and the framers looked to the states to look at policy, to look at things that make sense for their people,” Ivory said.

“States are separate and independent sovereigns, and sometimes they need to act like it,” Ivory added, quoting U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

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Utah Lawmaker Files Bill To Explore Therapeutic Use of Psychedelics

A Utah lawmaker has introduced a bill to explore the potential of psychedelic drugs to treat serious mental health conditions including depression, anxiety and PTSD. The legislation, House Bill 167, was introduced on Tuesday by Utah state Representative Brady Brammer, who noted that the measure “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,” Brammer said in a television news interview.

If passed, HB 167 would direct the state’s Health and Human Services Department to create a Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force. The group would “study and make recommendations on drugs that may assist in treating mental illness,” according to the text of the legislation. The legislation specifies the makeup of the task force, which would include mental health professionals, researchers and patients.

Although the bill does not specifically mention psychedelics or any particular drug, the task force would be authorized to “provide evidence-based recommendations on any psychotherapy drug that the task force determines may enhance psychotherapy when treating a mental illness.” The legislation would empower the task force to study the research into psychedelic drugs, which has shown the potential to treat serious mental health conditions.

“We need effective tools to treat mental illness,” Brammer said in a statement to local media. “If psychedelics can be helpful and safely administered, we need them in our toolbox.”

Cannabis Activists Support Utah Psychedelics Bill

Brammer’s bill is supported by groups that campaigned for Proposition 2, the 2018 ballot initiative that legalized medical marijuana in Utah. Kylee Shumway, the medical director for the Utah Patients Coalition, said that psychedelics may be able to help residents of the state who are struggling with mental illness.

“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,” said Shumway. “And a lot of the medications aren’t working.”

Research into psychedelics including psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine has shown that the drugs have potential therapeutic benefits, particularly for serious mental health conditions such as depression, addiction and anxiety. Research published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry in 2020 found that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy was an effective and quick-acting treatment for a group of 24 participants with major depressive disorder. A separate study published in 2016 determined that psilocybin treatment produced substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.

“It’s very promising,” Shumway exclaimed. “There are some huge studies that have just been finished recently on psilocybin that put it head to head against SSRIs which are antidepressants and psilocybin performed better across the board.”

“Utah has some of the finest researchers in the areas of psychiatry and neurosciences at Huntsman Mental Health Institute,” said Brammer. “This bill seeks to leverage that expertise, along with other experts grappling with mental illness, to review the research results, and if appropriate, make recommendations on how to safely administer these therapeutics under the care of qualified physicians.”

Steve Urquhart, a former Republican Utah state senator, also supports Brammer’s bill to explore the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs.

“Psychedelics changed my life,” he told local media. “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.”

Urquhart is the founder of The Divine Assembly, a Utah church that promotes religious and responsible use of psilocybin. 

“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,” Urquhart said. “I tell people, don’t get too lost on psychedelics; The Divine Assembly is about connection, and psychedelics can help with that.”

Urquhart believes that state lawmakers are likely to appreciate the cautious approach HB 167 takes to explore the benefits of psychedelics and may eventually support the legislation.

“Remember, this is Utah. Of course, we’re likely to take a slower approach to something like this,” he noted. “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.”

Brammer introduced HB 167 in the Utah House of Representatives on January 18. The bill has been referred to the House Rules Committee for consideration.

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