State lawmakers in Minnesota introduced legislation on Monday that would legalize the recreational use of cannabis by adults. The bills are sponsored in the Minnesota Senate by Sen. Melisa Franzen and Sen. Scott Jensen and by Rep. Mike Freiberg in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
If successful, the bills would make it legal for adults at least 21 years of age to use, possess, purchase, and cultivate cannabis. The state would license and regulate and tax cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, and retailers and enact health and safety rules including lab testing and packaging requirements. The Minnesota Department of Health would regulate dispensaries and a system would be implemented to track the production of commercial cannabis from seed to sale. The industry would be prohibited from using marketing targeting teens, and local governments would be allowed to regulate cannabis sales and production in their communities.
Prohibition More Problem Than Solution
Freiberg said in a press release that it is time for the state to move beyond cannabis prohibition.
“Minnesota’s outdated prohibition policy has become more of a problem than a solution,” Freiberg said. “It is forcing marijuana into a shady underground market, which creates more potential harm for consumers and communities than marijuana itself. Regulating marijuana would make our state safer by removing the criminal element and empowering our state and local governments to start controlling production and sales.”
Franzen said that the bills will allow adults to obtain cannabis without sacrificing government oversight or public safety.
“Our focus in drafting legislation to end the prohibition of cannabis in Minnesota is to ensure we have a responsible regulatory model for consumer access that still provides for public health, safety, and welfare,” Franzen said. “The time has come for us to have this debate.”
Jason Tarasek, the Minnesota political director for the Marijuana Policy Project and co-founder of Minnesotans for Responsible Marijuana Regulation, said that in a time of tight public resources the state should reevaluate its policies and priorities.
“It is time for Minnesota to recognize that, like alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, its prohibition of marijuana does not work,” said Tarasek. “By legalizing marijuana and carefully regulating its sale, we can keep it out of the hands of teens without needlessly arresting responsible adult consumers. This would allow law enforcement to spend more time addressing serious crimes, while also creating a significant new revenue stream for our state.”
The cannabis legalization measures also include social equity provisions such as allowing for the expungement of some marijuana crimes from the records of offenders and the dedication of $10 million each year to impoverished communities, many of which have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs. Additional funding would be provided for drug education, mental health services, and efforts to combat impaired driving. Analysis by the Marijuana Policy Project has determined that the legalization of cannabis in Minnesota could provide $200 million to $300 million in new tax revenue for the state.