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Minnesota Groups Bind Together to Oppose Legal Cannabis

A coalition of opposition is coming together to protect prohibition, with Minnesota poised to be the next battleground in the fight over marijuana legalization.

Under the straightforward name of “Minnesotans Against Marijuana Legalization,” the coalition “consists of the Minnesota Trucking Association, the state’s police and peace officers association and the Minnesota Catholic Conference, a policy arm of the Catholic Church of Minnesota, among others,” according to the Associated Press.

A group of anti-pot activists is targeting the bill passed by Minnesota’s House of Representatives in May. The bill would have allowed recreational marijuana use in Minnesota for adults, and also erased any previous cannabis-related convictions.  

It also would have created “a responsible regulatory structure focused on developing micro-businesses and a craft market… fund[ed]Providers: public health education, prevention of substance abuse and treatment for youth;[d]Grants, loans, technical support, and training to small business owners are all available.[d]Product testing; labeling[ed]Packaging based upon dosage size.[ed] limited home grow abilities,” according to a press release last year from Minnesota Democrats.

But after passing the Democratic-controlled House, the legislation went nowhere in the state Senate, where Republicans hold the majority.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Ryan Hamilton of the Minnesota Catholic Conference said that the “marijuana bill that passed the Minnesota House last session wasn’t a justice bill, it was a marijuana commercialization bill.”

“As we’ve seen from other states that have opened the doors for the marijuana industry, the promises made to justify marijuana legalization rarely come true, particularly for communities of color,” Hamilton said, as quoted by the Associated Press.

The Minnesota legislative session is slated to convene on January 1, and as the Associated Press noted, the bill that passed the state House last May “is technically still alive, though it’s unclear whether Republicans in the Senate will take up the measure.”

Ryan Winkler (House Majority Leader), is the bill’s author and one of the strongest advocates for marijuana legalization in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

“The failed criminalization of cannabis has resulted in a legacy of racial injustice that can no longer go unaddressed,” Winkler said in a statement after the bill was introduced last year. “Adults deserve the freedom to decide whether to use cannabis, and our state government should play an important role in addressing legitimate concerns around youth access, public health, and road safety. Minnesotans who have serious illness such as PTSD or veterans should be able to access our medical program. It isn’t working for everyone. It’s time to legalize, expunge, and regulate.”

According to the Associated Press, Winkler “told the Minnesota Hemp Growers Cooperative at an event on Wednesday [that] his goal is to reexamine parts of the bill this session to improve the proposal and attempt to get senators on board,” but he acknowledged its outlook in the state Senate is “up in the air.”

Republicans were dismissive of Winkler’s bill after he introduced it in the state House. 

Paul Gazelka, the GOP leader in the state Senate at the time, said at the time that he “would not consider legalizing recreational marijuana as a Minnesota priority.” 

Gazelka stepped down as majority leader in September and is now running to challenge Democratic Governor Tim Walz in this year’s gubernatorial race. With Walz as the candidate, it could open the door for legalization to become a key issue during the campaign. a full-throated supporter Prohibition on pot should be lifted. 

“I support legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use by developing a system of taxation, guaranteeing that it is Minnesota grown, and expunging the records of Minnesotans convicted of marijuana crimes,” Walz said when he ran for governor in 2018.