The governor of Minnesota has signed a pair of large-scale bills that include provisions to establish safe drug consumption sites and also create a psychedelics task force meant to prepare the state for possible legalization.
The Democratic-controlled legislature has sent a series of drug policy reform measures to Gov. Tim Walz (D) in recent weeks. He signed the harm reduction and psychedelics proposals, which were part of broader omnibus health and human services legislation, on Wednesday.
This comes days after the governor enacted another bill with provisions to legalize drug paraphernalia possession, syringe services, residue and testing—another win for harm reduction advocates in the state.
Meanwhile, he’s preparing to hold a “big” ceremony next week after the Memorial Day holiday to sign a much-anticipated piece of legislation to legalize marijuana.
The psychedelics measure that Walz signed on Wednesday establishes a Psychedelic Medicine Task Force that would be responsible for advising lawmakers on “the legal, medical, and policy issues associated with the legalization of psychedelic medicine in the state.”
The body will need to “survey existing studies in the scientific literature on the therapeutic efficacy of psychedelic medicine in the treatment of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and bipolar disorder, and any other mental health conditions and medical conditions for which a psychedelic medicine may provide an effective treatment option.”
It will then develop a plan addressing “statutory changes necessary for the legalization of psychedelic medicine” and “state and local regulation of psychedelic medicine.”
As introduced as a standalone bill, the legislation would have required the task force to look at mescaline, bufotenine, DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, 2C-B, ibogaine, salvinorin A and ketamine. But it was amended in committee to focus only on psilocybin, MDMA and LSD.
The newly enacted proposal calls for the appropriation of $338,000 in fiscal year 2024 and $171,000 in fiscal year 2025 to fund the task force.
The 23-member task force will consist of officials and experts, including the governor or a designee, the health commissioner, the state attorney general or a designee, two tribal representatives, people with expertise in substance misuse treatment, public health policy experts, military veterans with mental health conditions and more.
Separately, with Walz’s signature on the human services omnibus legislation, Minnesota is also now becoming the second state in the U.S. to authorize overdose prevention centers where people can use currently illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment.
The bill directs the commissioner of human services to create grants for harm reduction organizations, saying that the funding “must be used to establish safe recovery sites that offer harm reductions services and supplies, including but not limited to safe injection spaces,” the text says. It provides more than $14.5 million in one-time funding that will be distributed annually until 2029, funding grants to create the facilities.
Emily Kaltenbach, senior director of criminal legal and policing reform at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), said in a press release that the governor’s action “marks a critical turning point with Minnesota choosing a health approach over ineffective and harmful criminal approaches to respond to the overdose crisis moving forward.”
“With a stroke of his pen, Governor Walz has taken bold and courageous action by signing SF2934, which supports and creates a pathway for the state to officially sanction the use of overdose prevention centers,” she said. “Doing so recognizes the reality that people will use drugs and the need to keep them safe while providing access to addiction services and supports.”
Big Win! Following Rhode Island, Minnesota becomes the 2nd state to officially support overdose prevention centers. This afternoon, @GovTimWalz signed SF 2934, which mandates the Commissioner of Human Services to establish overdose prevention centers and includes more than $14… pic.twitter.com/0D8H3ZdgzO
— Drug Policy Alliance (@DrugPolicyOrg) May 24, 2023
“OPCs alone won’t address all the social determinants of health that lead to problematic or risky drug use in Minnesota,” she added. “While they can keep people safer, and alive, we still need to meet people’s basic needs and invest in housing, in livable wages, and in better access to health care. And we must also decriminalize drugs for personal use.”
Meanwhile, advocates are eager for Minnesota to become the 23rd state in the country to legalize marijuana for adult use. And, evidently, so is the Walz administration.
Minnesota officials are already soliciting vendors to help build a licensing system for recreational marijuana businesses—even before the governor has officially signed the legalization bill.
A government website also recently launched to provide information to consumers and businesses about the forthcoming cannabis policies.