On May 19, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed into law a bill legalizing all drug paraphernalia, including testing equipment and syringes, and decriminalizing drug residue. As Sophia Heimowitz and I explained in our Cato policy analysis last year, drug paraphernalia laws stand in the way of harm reduction organizations that seek to help people who use drugs avoid drug overdoses and the spread of infectious diseases.
In the late 1970s, the Drug Enforcement Administration began successfully encouraging states to enact drug paraphernalia laws and even developed and provided model legislation. Our study found that Alaska is the only state that never enacted drug paraphernalia laws. Our policy analysis called on all other states to emulate Alaska by repealing their drug paraphernalia laws.
Last June, I moderated a Cato online policy forum in which the Executive Director of Alaska’s oldest harm reduction organization compared notes with the Executive Director of Arizona’s oldest and largest harm reduction organization.
Arizona amended its paraphernalia laws in 2021 to permit syringe services programs to operate and to allow distributing and using fentanyl test strips. Still, it left most of the drug paraphernalia law intact. Minnesota, however, has gone even further by becoming the first state to repeal its drug paraphernalia laws. The law takes effect on August 1.
Hopefully, the remaining states will follow Minnesota’s lead.