Minneapolis Mayor Orders Police Stop Arrests for Psychedelics

Minneapolis, Minnesota is set to become a haven for people who turn to psychedelics for depression, anxiety, and other conditions.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced that he had signed an executive order on July 21, supporting entheogenic plant practices and ordering law enforcement to deprioritize the practice of arresting people caught with psychedelic compounds. It’s the mayor’s first executive order in 2023 and his fifth under his administration. 

Executive Order 2023-01 requires the investigation and arrest of people planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, and engaging in practices with, or possessing entheogenic plants or plant compounds to be the “lowest priority for law enforcement” in Minneapolis.  

“Regardless of the stigma attached, when you look at the science behind the benefits of entheogens, it all points in one direction,” said Mayor Frey. “Experts are telling us that these plants help people, and that’s the business we should be in—helping people. With a rise in deaths of despair in our city, and in our society, the data is showing that these plants can help be a remedy. That’s the message I hope this executive order sends elsewhere.” 

In 2018, Mayor Frey announced Minneapolics will cease sting operations for low-level cannabis offenders. The decision came after recent stings in the city showed significant racial disparity. Frey told local media that Minnesota lawmakers should reassess drug policy and legalize cannabis.

Executive Order 2023-21 does not legalize use of entheogenic plants, and exemptions that are still prosecutable include: 

The commercial sales or manufacturing of these plants or fungi 

Possessing or distributing these materials in schools 

Possessing or distributing these materials while driving, operating, or being in physical control of a motor vehicle or possessing a weapon while under the influence of these materials   

Last May, Mayor Frey signed legislation including provisions to legalize drug paraphernalia possession, syringe services, residue, and testing.

In May, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) signed a bill that included provisions to create a psychedelics task force meant to prepare the state for possible legalization. 

“I recognize that many of our community members see benefits in using these natural substances for health or religious purposes, and with this Executive Order, Mayor Frey has directed the Minneapolis Police Department to join agencies nationwide in continuing to deemphasize law enforcement activities related to use of entheogenic plants,” said Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara. “I stand with the mayor in support of this action and will ensure the MPD continues to maintain the safety of all residents and community members.” 

The racial disparity of psychedelics arrests mirrors the patterns seen in cannabis arrests.

“This is an important first step to undo all the harms inflicted from the war on people who use drugs, which was created to target brown and black peoples,” said Jessica Nielson, PhD, Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota and founding member of the DecriMN Coalition. “These natural medicines and their use by Indigenous peoples predate any of these laws. Individual liberty over one’s own health and consciousness is essential to a well community, as is the community healing that can occur with these entheogens.” 

Researchers are exploring the use of psilocybin to reorganize patterns in the brain to help treat depression, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Furthermore, esketamine was approved and elevated to Schedule III by the FDA to help people with treatment-resistant depression.

“A generation ago these plants were carelessly condemned as part of the broader war on drugs. Science now knows better, and policymakers ought to respond by regulating these in a different way,” said Council Member Andrew Johnson, Ward 12. “Deprioritization is a great step, and it’s exciting to see Minneapolis among the leading cities [nationally] calling for a commonsense approach in light of all the data.” 

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