The mayor of Washington, D.C. signed a bill into law to decriminalize possession of drug paraphernalia, such as pipes and syringes, for personal use and encourage harm reduction interventions, such as testing samples of a controlled substance for purity.

Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) included the measures as part of a broader bill to tackle the jurisdiction’s high rate of opioid overdoses. It’s now under review by Capitol Hill lawmakers.

Aside from allowing individuals to carry pipes, syringes and other drug paraphernalia for personal use, the bill will “permit persons testing personal use quantities of a controlled substance to use, or possess with the intent to use, testing equipment or other objects used, intended for use, or designed for use in identifying or analyzing the strength, effectiveness, or purity of a controlled substance.”

The signed bill also allows community-based organizations to distribute and use drug-testing equipment for these purposes.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) welcomed the announcement as “a huge step forward for the health and livelihood of people who use drugs.”

“What people often forget is that people use drugs in a whole bunch of different ways,” said Queen Adesuyi, DPA policy manager of national affairs. “I think in a time like now, where we’re dealing with a compounded public health crisis, with COVID-19 on top of the increasingly worsening overdose crisis in D.C., it’s not a better time than now to finally get past stigma.”

Washington, D.C.’s latest steps toward comprehensive drug policy reform follows the jurisdiction’s decision to decriminalize psychedelics such as psilocybin and ayahuasca through a voter-approved ballot measure on Election Day.

While marijuana possession and cultivation is legal in Washington, D.C., there’s no legislative framework in place to allow for legal retail sales of the plant for recreational purposes. Mayor Bowser filed an adult-use cannabis sales bill last year and included the measure in her budget proposal for the 2021 fiscal year but both measures depend on the approval of Capitol Hill lawmakers. Pressure is mounting to allow a legal retail cannabis market in the nation’s capital, yet Congress nonetheless recently renewed a rider that prevents local officials from using tax funds to establish legal marijuana sales.

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