A Minnesota psychedelics task force charged with studying the medical benefits of psilocybin, MDMA and LSD and preparing the state for possible legalization convened on Monday for its first meeting, at which members selected a chairperson and laid out the trajectory of the coming months.
The group must return a final report to the state with findings and recommendations by January 1, 2025, and at least one key lawmaker says he plans to file a reform bill shortly thereafter.
The meeting took place more than three months late, according to a state omnibus bill passed in March that created the Psychedelic Medicine Task Force. But state Rep. Andy Smith (D), who sponsored a standalone bill to create the psychedelics task force this past session and was appointed to serve on the body by the House speaker, recently told Marijuana Moment he’s confident the task force will hit the ground running.
“Our team at the Department of Health has done a lot of work to kind of prepare the field,” Smith said in a phone interview on Friday, noting that they’ve already held trainings for members on technology and presentation software that the group will be using.
You can also find documents & more information on the Task Force website here: https://t.co/U1XHNH3JKU
— Rep. Andy Smith (@AndySmithMN) November 6, 2023
Of 25 posted positions for the task force, 24 have been filled. They include lawmakers and agency representatives as well as a host of others appointed by Gov. Tim Walz (D) with experience in health policy, mental health, substance use disorders, veterans health and psychedelic medicine.
There were three candidates to lead the task force as chairperson, and members ultimately voted to select Jessica Nielson, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School and executive director of the Psychedelic Society of Minnesota.
“I kind of straddle both worlds” in the psychedelics space, Nielson said, touting her “very strong understanding and deep rich experience in writing the scientific literature and interpreting it and trying to communicate that to others, while also having a lot of roots in the actual community itself.”
At Monday’s meeting, Smith said it is “so exciting that this is happening now,” adding that he’s encouraged to see that “this is a bipartisan issue.”
“I’m interested in this area and pushing this forward, and I think this is going to help many thousands and eventually millions of Minnesotans with such a wide range of things we’re struggling with—whether it’s PTSD, whether it is struggling with addiction, and all kinds of things in between,” he said.
Rep. Nolan West (R), a task force member appointed by the House minority leader who also served on the bicameral conference committee that finalized Minnesota’s newly implemented marijuana legalization law, said that he’s “interested in this area to try and help people through more natural means.”
“Pharmaceuticals can have a lot of side effects,” he said. “I’m excited to be here just to see the professional opinions of actual medical people and not crackpots on the internet on psychedelics and how they can help people, and if there’s a role for us here on the task force to make any recommendations on that.”
A draft charter for the task force says that members will be guided by three key principles: scientific rigor, collaboration and inclusivity and accountability and integrity.
There’s still one vacant position on the task force—a second tribal representative—but a staffer with the governor’s office said at the meeting that they’re still soliciting applications.
“It is not without trying. There have been applications that have been reviewed by the governor’s office and it’s just in need of finalization for the right fit,” they said. “So if anyone has anyone that they think would be interested in this position, we highly encourage them to apply.”
Asked last week by Marijuana Moment whether he planned to introduce psychedelics reform legislation following the task force’s findings, Smith, whose term ends next year, replied: “Yes, absolutely.”
“I am already planning on running again,” he continued, “and if—and hopefully when—I’m re-elected and this task force gives their final report..my hope is to bring that legislation in that session.”
As for whether he would follow the task force’s recommendations exactly, Smith left himself some wiggle room.
“First and foremost, I am a representative of my constituents here in Minnesota,” he said. “I have to stick to my conscience there. But the reason we went this route is because I want to be dedicated to listening to the experts on this particular issue and be as responsible as possible.”
Smith also emphasized that he wants to hear from any Minnesotans with ideas or feedback on the way forward. “If they think there’s an area that we’re not talking about—or they even [have] something simple as a great article or experience and they want to be part of the task force—email me, email other members of the task force,” he said.
While the final report isn’t due until the start of 2025, the body is required to file a preliminary report by February of next year.
Smith said he imagines the first report will be more about how the task force plans to approach the issues, with findings and recommendations reserved for its final report.
“This first report is going to be kind of like a syllabus—this is what we would like to do, this is how we’re going to go about this—rather than have any actionable steps in that first report,” he said.
Lawmakers who have also been appointed to the task force include Sens. Kelly Morrison (D) and Julia Coleman (R), who were appointed by bipartisan Senate leadership, as well as West.
As originally introduced as a standalone bill, Smith’s psychedelics 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.
In addition to creating the psychedelics task force, the omnibus bill that the governor signed to create the Psychedelic Medicine Task Force also included provisions to establish safe drug consumption sites.
At the local level, the mayor of Minneapolis issued an executive order in July making the criminalization of possession, use and cultivation of psychedelics the city’s lowest law enforcement priority and generally preventing local resources from being used to aid federal and state actions against the substances.
Meanwhile, it became legal for adults 21 and older in Minnesota to possess and cultivate marijuana on August 1.
As for legal cannabis sales, regulators are seeking public input as they begin the process of crafting rules for the state’s new industry. The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) late last month released a new online survey that includes questions on cannabis cultivation, processing and manufacturing. Regulators say they’re hoping to hear from “the widest possible range of community members, advocates, and partners who want to help shape how the rules are drafted.”
A separate Minnesota law also took effect in August that legalizes drug paraphernalia possession, syringe services, controlled substances residue and testing.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mushroom Observer.