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Minnesota Adult-Use Legalization Bill Clears First Hurdle

Minnesota Democratic legislators are pushing for legalization of marijuana. This week, a bill passed the first hurdle. 

The bill “cleared the first of what may be up to a dozen committee hurdles when the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee approved” the measure “by a voice vote Wednesday and sent it to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee,” the Minnesota House of Representatives Public Information Services department reported.

The bill would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older, and would establish the regulatory framework for legal marijuana sales that would begin within months of the measure’s passage. 

Last week, the Minnesota House of Representatives introduced it.

“Cannabis should not be illegal in Minnesota,” Democratic state House Rep. Zack Stephenson, one of the bill’s authors, said at a press conference announcing the legislation at the state capitol last week. “Minnesotans deserve the freedom and respect to make responsible decisions about cannabis themselves. Current laws do more harm than good. State and local governments are spending millions enforcing laws that aren’t helping anyone.”

Stephenson, along with his colleagues in St. Paul, have always been keen to see cannabis legalization in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, however, they’ve been stymied until now by Republican lawmakers.

But that changed after November’s elections, when Minnesota Democrats regained control of the state Senate and retained their majority in the state House of Representatives. 

The state’s Democratic governor, Tim Walz, also won re-election this past fall, and has been a vocal advocate for marijuana legalization in Minnesota.

“It’s time to legalize adult-use cannabis and expunge cannabis convictions in Minnesota. I’m ready to sign it into law,” Walz said in a tweet after Democrats introduced the legalization bill earlier this month.

At the committee meeting on Wednesday, Stephenson expressed confidence that the bill, buttressed by public support, would ultimately make it to Walz’s desk.

News service summarized amendments discussed at Wednesday’s committee meeting:

“The subject of local control — or lack thereof — was the subject of an amendment unsuccessfully offered by Rep. Kurt Daudt (R-Crown). The amendment would have provided cities with the option to adopt ordinances localizing cannabis license regulations that differ from state-wide. Other Republican amendments were approved. Another, offered by Rep. Anne Neu Brindley of North Branch, would include a health warning about the use of cannabis products for women who are pregnant or nursing. An amendment by Rep. Jeff Dotseth, R-Kettle River, would mandate that the Office of Cannabis Management conduct research on the effects of secondhand cannabis smoking. Stephenson said the Dotseth amendment was a good idea, but noted his bill already would prohibit smoking cannabis in places where smoking is not allowed under the Clean Indoor Air Act.”

According to polls, Minnesotan voters want to live in a post-prohibition world. 

The moves by state Democrats were foreshadowed by one of Minnesota’s best-known politicians, former Gov. Jesse Ventura stated that Walz had called him after the November elections to inform him of his intention to legalize marijuana.

“The sticking point for cannabis in Minnesota were Republicans in the (Senate),” Ventura said at the time. “Well, they lost it now, and the governor reassured me that one of the first items that will be passed — Minnesota, get ready — cannabis is going to have its prohibition lifted. That’s the news I got today.”