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Utah Legislators Pass Bill Allowing Hospitals to Treat Patients with Psilocybin and MDMA
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Utah Legislators Pass Bill Allowing Hospitals to Treat Patients with Psilocybin and MDMA

Seraiah Alexander
Seraiah Alexander
April 04, 2024
2 min

Amongst the surge of psychedelic legislation in the United States, Utah’s legislators have unanimously endorsed a pilot program for the medical use of MDMA and psilocybin. Senate Bill 266 would allow hospitals to use these psychedelic substances as an alternative treatment option. This move could open new opportunities for patient care, especially for those with conditions that have proven resistant to conventional treatments.

What is SB266?

The bill, introduced by Senate Majority Whip Kirk Cullimore (R) and House Speaker Pro Tempore James Dunnigan (R), was created to address Utah’s growing mental health crisis. Recent studies indicate that Utah has the seventh-highest rate of adult depression in the country. Moreover, suicide was found to be the leading cause of death amongst Utah residents aged 10 to 17 and 18 to 24. By integrating psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA into medical protocols, the bill could lead to significant breakthroughs in mental health care and possibly offer effective and long-term solutions for individuals with severe mental health conditions.

The bill will allow doctors to offer psilocybin or MDMA treatment as long as the patients are strictly under the care of a medical facility. Currently, the program is only available to providers at the University of Utah Health and Intermountain, considering its conditions that require the health care systems to be privately owned, nonprofit, and have at least 15 licensed hospitals or a part of a medical program run by a higher level educational institution.

Healthcare providers involved in the program are required to submit a report to the legislature by July 2026 detailing the medications used, their side effects, patient health incomes, and any other data  “necessary for the Legislature to evaluate the medicinal value of any drugs.” 

Last year, Utah lawmakers attempted to pass a similar but more broad bill that would have legalized the production of psilocybin and the creation of a therapeutic pilot program. However, the bill failed to pass as Gov. Spencer Cox believed it was too far-reaching at the time. Nonetheless, Cox states that he’s generally supportive of scientific efforts to discover the benefits of new substances that can relieve suffering.”  

Although Cox did not sign the legislation to pass SB266, he also did not veto it and will allow the bill to go into effect on May 1.

Potential impact on mental healthcare

Although psilocybin and MDMA remain federally illegal under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the FDA has designated them both as breakthrough therapies, allowing them to be fast-tracked for testing and development due to their promising success in treating various mental health issues like anxiety, treatment-resistant depression, substance abuse disorders, and more. 

Given that hospitals and universities usually adhere to federal guidelines, there is still some uncertainty about the implementation of the bill due to the legal status of psilocybin and MDMA.

“The bill is proposing, really, an alternate pathway,” said Rep. Raymond Ward (R). “That’s why I say it’s a philosophical question. Do you think that these medicines really only should always just go through this one pathway, the FDA first and then be allowed to be used? Or do you think there should be any other alternate pathway whereby a patient might be given these medications in a controlled setting from some of our best physicians, but where we really do not yet have all of the data that we normally would have before we gave them to patients?”

While psilocybin and MDMA remain illegal for general use in Utah, the passing of Senate Bill 266 will provide more research regarding the efficacy of these drugs and provide patient care in a safe and controlled setting.


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science
Seraiah Alexander

Seraiah Alexander

Content Editor

Table Of Contents

1
What is SB266?
2
Potential impact on mental healthcare

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