Minnesota becomes first state to legalize all drug paraphernalia
DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) -- “This is the first in the nation provision, and when I say first in the nation provision, it is the only law that legalizes all forms of drug paraphernalia,” said Edward Krumpotich, the Upper Midwest Policy Lead with the National Harm Reduction Coalition. “It also legalizes all drugs contained in that paraphernalia defined as residual drugs.”
A first-time provision that is exactly what it sounds like: Syringes, and any small doses of drugs found inside, are now legalized in the state of Minnesota.
Signed by Governor Tim Walz Friday, that public safety bill also legalized all forms of drug testing, allows syringe service providers to dispense sterile needles, and removes caps on the number of syringes pharmacists can sell people without a prescription.
Harm reduction experts are calling the monumental law a new frontier of the war on drugs.
“I contracted HIV from a used syringe,” said Krumpotich. “I have been using methamphetamine since the age of 19, I was a high school history teacher.”
After his experience with dirty syringes, now sober, Krumpotich turned to public policy, joining a harm reduction coalition to support this new legislation.
Sending a new message; one of recovery and prevention.
“We have a large rise in infectious diseases,” said Krumpotich. “Duluth, for example, had an HIV outbreak.”
A primary factor: sharing syringes during injection drug use.
“Really it started showing up again in 2019. It’s not a huge number, but in the past year it has gone up about 20%,” said Jenny Swanson, who sits on the Board of Directors with Harm Reduction Sisters. “The problem is that with the ones you are seeing, there are a bunch you are not seeing.”
An outbreak Duluth’s Harm Reduction Sisters is all too familiar with.
“We take in over 20,000 used syringes in a month, but we still have people who are afraid to bring them to us because of the residue in the syringes,” said Marcia Gurno, a health educator with the Rural Aids Action Network.
Northland harm reduction programs understand the concerns some have, but said it’s time to face reality: People are dying, and a change needed to be made.
According to the CDC, syringe service programs lower infectious diseases by 50%.
“If you visit a syringe program, you are five times more likely to enter drug treatment,” said Krumpotich. “That information is incontrovertible.”
Krumpotich said old policies kept people in the shadows, enabling drug use by not allowing providers access to them.
“As someone who used for a long time, my disease may not have happened if I had access to a syringe service provider,” said Krumpotich.
Advocates telling us this may be the first real step in facing Minnesota’s opioid crisis.
The new law goes into effect on August 1st, 2023.
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