Amid growing acceptance of psychedelics, advocates in blue states like Colorado and Oregon began their pushes with ballot measures proposing to decriminalize psychedelics like "magic mushrooms." Advocates in red states like Utah and Missouri are starting in a different way, proposing studying them or first making them legal for medical use — a strategy that mirrors how many states including Utah have handled marijuana legalization, the Associated Press reports. In Utah, one proposal would create a pilot program for the medical and therapeutic use of magic mushrooms. Sen. Luz Escamilla, a Salt Lake City Democrat, wants to create a pathway to legalization and allowing patients to consume magic mushrooms for therapeutic benefits. Her primary motivation is confronting a ballooning mental health epidemic, she said.
Currently, magic mushrooms are illegal under federal law, and therapists who guide patients through trips typically require they find them on their own out of fear of jeopardizing their licenses. A series of studies from Johns Hopkins University’s psychedelics research unit found that magic mushroom-assisted therapy can reduce depression symptoms for up to a year and be effective for individuals for whom other treatments haven’t worked. Utah, a conservative state where culture and politics are dominated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has become a global hotspot for psychedelics, attracting spirituality-seeking individuals leaving traditional religion as well as outdoor hobbyists looking to use hallucinogens recreationally in places like the red rock deserts of Moab. As psychedelics become less counterculture and more mainstream, they are also drawing interests from mainstream users struggling with mental health and disillusioned after years of taking anti-depressants. “This is an opportunity to add to the toolbox for our massive mental health crisis,” Escamilla said. “The policy question as a lawmaker is: Do we have 10 more years to wait for people to get access to mental health care when they need it?” Legislation to allow research on the therapeutic benefits psilocybin is under consideration in states across the political spectrum this year, including in Arizona, Hawaii and Oklahoma. Legislation to legalize therapeutic use or create pilot programs is under consideration in states including California, Connecticut, New York, Utah, and Washington. In Virginia, two magic mushroom-related bills failed to advance this year in the politically divided General Assembly.