The Minnesota legislature has sent a large-scale health policy bill to the governor that contains provisions to create a psychedelics task force meant to prepare the state for possible legalization.
About one month after the House initially passed the omnibus legislation including language similar to a standalone psychedelics measure sponsored by Rep. Andy Smith (D), both chambers passed a bicamerally negotiated conference report on Monday that retains the provisions.
It first cleared the Senate in a 34-32 vote. The House followed suit later in the day, giving final approval in a 69-64 vote and sending it to the desk of Gov. Tim Walz (D).
For purposes of this bill, “psychedelic medicine” means 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), psilocybin, and LSD, which at the moment are the three psychedelic substances with the most research done on the them.
— Rep. Andy Smith (@AndySmithMN) May 22, 2023
Monday’s votes come just days after the legislature approved a bill to legalize marijuana, which Walz said that he’d sign next week after the Memorial Day holiday.
The new health legislation that’s on its way to becoming law would establish 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 would 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 would then develop a plan addressing “statutory changes necessary for the legalization of psychedelic medicine” and “state and local regulation of psychedelic medicine.”
“The psychedelic medicine task force, I’m very excited, is part of this bill,” Sen. Kelly Morrison (D) said during a conference committee meeting on Monday ahead of the floor votes in either chamber. “This is a really interesting and innovative potential new treatment for depression and other diseases, so studying that will be important.”
Also, twitter #mnleg followers might be interested to know that both @WalterHudson and I are on the bill. And actually this is an important point to make: there are bills that are bipartisan, they just don’t normally grab the headlines.
— Rep. Andy Smith (@AndySmithMN) May 22, 2023
As introduced as a standalone bill from Smith, 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.
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Provisions of the legislation related to appointments of members of the task force also changed over the course of the process.
As filed in standalone form, it said that the House majority leader and Senate majority leader would each appoint two members of the body. An earlier committee adopted an amendment to let the minority leaders of both chambers each have one of those appointments, bolstering its bipartisan appeal—but that was left out when the measure was first attached to the omnibus legislation. The revised bipartisan language, which is part of the measure heading to the governor’s desk, was added back in during a House Ways & Means Committee hearing last month before passing on the floor prior to conference.
The final 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 would have to 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.
“The task force shall submit two reports to the chairs and ranking minority members of the legislative committees with jurisdiction over health and human services that detail the task force’s findings regarding the legalization of psychedelic medicine in the state, including the comprehensive plan developed under subdivision,” it says. “The first report must be submitted by February 1, 2024, and the second report must be submitted by January 1, 2025.”
Kurtis Hanna, a drug law reform lobbyist who worked on advancing the psychedelics measure this session, told Marijuana Moment that the legislation “recognizes the potential of psychedelics to revolutionize mental health treatments and provides hope for individuals suffering from debilitating conditions like PTSD and treatment-resistant depression.”
“The task force is mandated to explore both the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics and the legal pathways by which Minnesota’s government can help patients successfully navigate the labyrinth of federal laws and regulations in order to get access to these potential medicines,” he said. “By fostering this collaboration among public health experts, legal experts, patients, advocates and clinicians, this legislation can help our state open up new avenues of treatment that have long been stigmatized or dismissed.”
Meanwhile, on Friday, the governor signed separate large-scale legislation that contains provisions to legalize drug paraphernalia possession, syringe services, residue and testing—a win for harm reduction advocates in the state.
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