From studying psychedelics to legalizing drug paraphernalia and residue, Minnesota's new drug policies reach far beyond marijuana.
The state is enacting changes this year aimed at reducing overdoses and infections, including legalization measures that advocates called nation-leading. The DFL-controlled Legislature also boosted fentanyl-related penalties and approved requirements to ensure schools and police officers carry opioid overdose reversal medication.
"The stigma and the criminalization, especially of serious drugs, of opiates, kills people. And they don't have to die," said Rep. Aisha Gomez, DFL-Minneapolis, who pushed to legalize paraphernalia and drug residue. "It's about the humanity of people who use drugs."
Here are some of the major changes to state drug policies.
Psychedelic medicine task force
While the legal marijuana bill traveled a high-profile path through more than two dozen committees, a proposal to explore legalizing psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms and MDMA — better known as ecstasy — got little fanfare before it was tucked in the broader health finance package. Under the new law, Minnesota will create a Psychedelic Medicine Task Force to advise the Legislature on the "legal, medical, and policy issues associated with the legalization of psychedelic medicine in the state."
Despite decades of stigma around psychedelics, a handful of states and municipalities across the United States are moving to decriminalize their use. Some of the biggest backers of legalizing psychedelics are veterans, who have found some success using the drugs to treat PTSD. The task force must include psychiatrists, psychologists and veterans who are still struggling after other treatment.
Task force members will be appointed by July 15 and their first report is due to the Legislature when it convenes the next legislative session in February.
Legalizing drug paraphernalia, residue
Minnesota appears to be the first state in the nation to legalize both drug paraphernalia and residue, said Edward Krumpotich with the National Harm Reduction Coalition, which works to prevent overdoses and keep people who use drugs safe.
People will no longer face penalties for possessing or delivering items such as pipes, bongs, syringes or needles. If there's drug residue — from marijuana to meth — in one of the items, that is also no longer considered grounds for penalization. People previously could have received gross misdemeanors or felonies for residue, and petty misdemeanors for paraphernalia.
The change takes effect August 1, and does not retroactively apply to crimes before that date.
The law also clarifies that syringe service providers can legally operate. These providers give out sterile syringes and injection materials and try to connect people with treatment. It lifts limits on the number of syringes pharmacists can sell.
Drug testing materials, which are used to check for drugs such as xylazine — also known as "tranq" — are legal under the change.
"Substance use is finally being put into the public health paradigm. For too long the drug war focused on a criminalized campaign which has increased overdoses here in the state," Krumpotich said. "This came from the streets ... And the Legislature was courageous enough to believe the experts."
Safe injection sites
Minnesota is the second state in the nation to allow for safe injection spaces, which advocates hope can help stem the crisis of overdose deaths. These overdose prevention centers allow people to use illegal drugs they already obtained under the supervision of staff, who are trained to revive someone who has taken too much. They also provide access to sterile supplies, drug testing equipment and connections to recovery and social services programs.
Rhode Island is the only other state to allow safe injection sites. The federal government announced last month that it's funding a study on whether overdoses can be prevented by such sites.
Opioid overdose medication in schools
Public and charter schools must start keeping opioid antagonists like Narcan, which can reverse overdoses from drugs such as fentanyl and heroin. The new state law mandates that starting July 1, each school needs to carry two doses of the nasal spray version of the medication.
"Two is a start. And now can we add it to dorms?" suggested Colleen Ronnei, who leads the group Change the Outcome. "There's always progress to be made. But I'm very, very excited that we made this particular progress."
The state health commissioner needs to provide resources to schools to help them implement the new policy, including at least one training video. Alicia House with the Steve Rummler HOPE Network has pushed for the change, but she said the state policy leaves "a lot of unanswered questions" about how schools will enact the requirement.
State law will also require every on-duty police officer carry the overdose medication starting in August, a move House said some departments around Minnesota had resisted.
Opioid overdose surge alert system
The next two-year budget funds the creation of a voluntary opioid overdose surge alert system in the state. Minnesota's commissioner of human services will be in charge of creating the text message system to caution people from using substances when there is an overdose surge in their surrounding area. The state can work with local governments and recovery and addiction organizations to promote the voluntary surge alert service.
Fentanyl penalties increased
While the state removed many drug-related penalties, it increased the legal consequences for someone selling or possessing a certain amount of fentanyl, making them on par with heroin. Some families who lost loved ones to fentanyl overdoses had been pressing for the change, while others argued against increased penalties and instead emphasized treatment.
"Fentanyl is extraordinary potent. Just a small amount can be deadly," said Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, who sponsored the bill containing the change. "For the people who are distributing the nasty stuff, you've got to be able to address that. You've got to have the stick as well as the carrot."