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White House Launches Challenge to Save Lives from Overdose, MI Bills Would Hike Sentences for Heroin, Fentanyl Sales, More... (3/14/23)

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Consequences of Prohibition


Therapeutic psychedelic bills are advancing in Maryland and Utah, and more.

A naloxone kit. The Biden administration is pushing awareness of the opioid overdose reversal drug. (
Maryland House Approves Psychedelic Task Force Study Bill. The House on Wednesday gave its overwhelming approval to a bill that would create a task force to study possible regulatory frameworks for access to therapeutic psychedelics, House Bill 548. The measure passed on a vote of 136-1. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration. 

The bill specifically mentions psilocybin, psilocin, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and mescaline, but leaves a door open for including other psychedelics. 

The task force would have to come up with a means of ensuring "broad, equitable, and affordable access to psychedelic substances" in the state. To do so, it would have to examine "permitting requirements, including requirements regarding education and safety," "access to treatment and regulated support" and "production of natural psychedelic substances."

It also includes provisions calling for recommendations on expunging prior convictions for psychedelics and releasing any psychedelic prisoners, as well as a provision calling for recommendations on civil penalties for "nonviolent infractions involving the planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, or possessing of or other engagement with natural psychedelic substances."

Utah Lawmakers Unanimously Approve Psilocybin, MDMA Treatments at Hospitals. Both the House and the Senate have approved a bill to allow a pilot program where hospitals administer psilocybin and MDMA as an alternate treatment option, Senate Bill 266. The measure now goes to the desk of Gov. Spencer Cox (R), who two years ago signed a therapeutic psychedelic task force study bill into law.  

"A healthcare system may develop a behavioral health treatment program that includes a treatment" with psilocybin and MDMA that it "determines is supported by a broad collection of scientific and medical research," the bill says.

If signed into law, the bill would go into effect on May 1, and any hospitals that participate would have to submit a report to the legislature on drugs utilized, health care outcomes for patients, and side effects by July 1, 2026. 

Drug Policy

Michigan Bills Seek Longer Sentences for Heroin, Fentanyl Dealers. A trio of bills that would stiffen sentences for sellers of fentanyl and heroin, House Bill 5124, House Bill 5125, and House Bill 5126 got a hearing in the House Criminal Justice Committee this week. No vote was taken. 

The bills would increase sentences for sellers of carfentanil, fentanyl, and heroin by raising the felony level for crimes related to their manufacture or sale. That would expose people convicted of those offenses to longer sentences.

"Dealers who knowingly cut fentanyl into other drugs and put it out there in our communities are murderers," said bill cosponsor Rep. Sarah Lightner (R). "They know the consequences of their actions and they’re still doing it for the dollar. Then they get a slap on the hand when they get caught. It’s wrong. We need to get serious when it comes to the penalties to make these bad actors take a second look at what they’re doing."

For now, the bills remain in committee.

Harm Reduction 

Biden Administration Launches Whitehouse Challenge to Save Lives from Overdose. President Biden named beating the opioid and overdose crisis a key pillar of his Unity Agenda during his first State of the Union Address, and now the administration is rolling out "not only the whole-of-government response but also the whole-of-society response to address this public health and public safety crisis head-on," a Whitehouse fact sheet says. 

"The White House Challenge to Save Lives from Overdose is a nationwide call-to-action to stakeholders across all sectors to commit to save lives by increasing training on and access to life-saving opioid overdose reversal medications.

"An overdose can happen anywhere, to anyone. That’s why the Biden-Harris Administration has made historic investments and taken historic action to expand access to opioid overdose reversal medications. But we need stakeholders in every community across the country to help ensure preventable deaths are avoided. Organizations and businesses—big or small, public or private—should be ready to help keep their employees, customers, and communities safe.

"To help more Americans save lives, we are encouraging leaders to commit to train employees on opioid overdose reversal medications, keep the medications in first aid kits, and distribute medications to employees and customers so they might save a life at home, work, or in their communities. Together we can save lives and beat the overdose crisis. Join us."

The administration also touted actions it had taken to address the crisis, including, making naloxone available over the counter, delivering support to states and tribes, increasing awareness of and education on opioid overdose reversal medications, investing in harm reduction services, increasing access to opioid overdose reversal drugs in federal facilities, and strengthening a whole-of-society response.

The administration did not mention creating a safe drug supply by ending prohibition. 

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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