Minnesota is back with their legislative push to legalize recreational cannabis this year, hoping to follow in the footsteps of many of their neighbors.
“The ability for Minnesotans to drive across the border to get cannabis is going to increase significantly,” said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “People are willing to drive to Wisconsin in order to buy fireworks. They’re sure as heck going to drive to South Dakota to get cannabis.”
However, while democrats and cannabis advocates keep pushing, and 51 percent of registered voters in the state support legal cannabis, the republicans, who control the Senate in Minnesota, are mainly anti-cannabis.
“My main concerns are the unintended consequences of recreational pot similar to the concerns we all have about tobacco, drinking, or prescription drug abuse,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka. “Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences. We’re just starting to learn about legalization’s adverse effects in other states like Colorado and Washington. There is no reason to rush this in Minnesota without learning more.”
Pot’s Got A Fighting Chance
In spite of this, legalization does have a chance in the state. Governor Tim Walz supports legalization because of the economic and justice reform implications, especially now, when so many states are hurting for revenue. And Minnesota has already legalized medical cannabis for certain conditions.
“Our priority is to end the black market for cannabis,” said Winkler regarding the possibility of legalization and what he hopes to achieve. “He said the current system has had the “deliberate effect of criminalizing thousands and thousands of Minnesotans based on their race.”
If this bill passes, people with prior convictions will be able to try for expungement, either automatically or through a process if they have higher-level or multiple convictions. Minnesota has been in the limelight this year due to racial issues, and advocates think legalization would be a positive step forward.
Currently, even though polling shows that both Black and white Minnesotans use cannabis at about the same rate, those who are Black are five times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession.
“The legalization of adult-use cannabis will result in health, economic, criminal justice and civil rights benefits for Minnesotans,” said Rep. Rena Moran, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. “People from all demographic backgrounds and in all areas of the state are demanding a change to our outdated policies about cannabis.”
“Members of all political parties should work together towards implementing a better regulatory model to address the expensive, inefficient, and unfair prohibition on marijuana,” added Rep. Patrick Garofalo, one of the few Republicans who supports legalizing cannabis. “Contrary to what some will say, this is not a partisan issue. Many Republicans are interested in reforming these expensive laws.”
“By passing this legislation, it will also allow us to protect our kids under 21 from cannabis and provide resources to regulators, local law enforcement and public health officials,” added Sen. Melisa Lopez Franzen.
Currently, things could go either way, but many are remaining hopeful for Minnesota legalization during this legislative session.