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Friday, December 9, 2022

Will 2023 be the year Minnesota legalizes Marijuana?

With Democrats in total control of Minnesota’s government, the state’s legalization of recreational marijuana seems more likely than ever before.

St. Paul’s split government has been an obstacle to legalization attempts in Minnesota for the last six years. In 2015, Republicans assumed control of the Senate and refused to compromise on the matter. Things might change rapidly now that the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party owns the House, the governorship, and a 34-33 majority in the Senate.

Kurtis Hanna, adult-use cannabis lobbyist, and co-founder of NORML Minnesota, a legalization advocacy organization, said, “The odds have never been greater.”

While Democrats in the House and Senate have not yet outlined their legislative goals for the 2023 session, Gov. Tim Walz and other DFL members have indicated support for legalization. On a webcast this week, former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura said that Walz informed him that legalization is one of the first things he expects to do when the legislature resumes session on January 3. Thursday, a representative for Walz verified the statements to WCCO-TV.

In his first budget suggestions for this year, Walz advocated for the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. And upon his 2019 inauguration, he urged state agencies to start preparations for potential legalization. He is the first governor to advocate for the policy.

How may legalization manifest in Minnesota? The governor proposed financing for a new Cannabis Management Office to oversee the sector, as well as subsidies for company owners eager to join the legal market and education programs on the possible negative consequences of marijuana usage. It also advocated for a tax on marijuana and the expungement of marijuana-related nonviolent convictions.

Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said that the prohibition of marijuana in Minnesota has failed and that the state should instead strive to capitalize on its economic advantages while focusing law enforcement on serious crime.

In 2021, the Minnesota House passed a measure legalizing marijuana for recreational use and expunging earlier convictions for low-level possession, but the Senate never gave it a hearing. Hanna said that Senate Republicans established a clear line in the sand during the first few months of Walz’s first term, and he did not anticipate this posture to change if they retained power for another four years.

During a press conference on Thursday, incoming Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, declined to comment on whether his Republican colleagues would change their stance on the subject. Wednesday, DFL senators were equally noncommittal.

Historically, opponents of legalization have included the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the Insurance Federation of Minnesota, and the state trucking and police groups. Concerns include possible harmful effects on mental health and road safety.

This year, Minnesota has already taken significant steps toward legalizing recreational marijuana for adults. Legislation that took effect on 1 July authorized the sale of THC-containing foods and drinks in the state.

People over the age of 21 may purchase items containing up to 5 milligrams of THC per serving. A single edible or drinkable packet may not contain more than 50 milligrams of THC. Products must be produced from hemp that is legally certified and has no more than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis.

Since Minnesotans have been permitted to purchase THC-infused drinks at bars and restaurants since the summer as a result of the passage of a hemp-derived THC law during the last legislative session, this policy suggestion does not represent as much of a shift.

The action surprised many, including those of the legislators who supported it.

Following the legalization of edible and drinkable THC products in Minnesota, enforcement and regulation are still lacking. Under the new legislation, edible THC products may be lawful, but the enforcement issue is not addressed. The Minnesota Board of Pharmacy is responsible for regulating cannabis-containing goods, while local governments are responsible for enforcing the law. Increased governmental restrictions and taxation will undoubtedly accompany complete legalization.

Legalized recreational marijuana might produce substantial income for the state. A study published in August by the University of Minnesota Duluth found that the state is missing out on up to $46 million in tax revenue from legal edibles, which are currently not taxed.

Voters in Maryland and Missouri legalized recreational marijuana on Tuesday. A ballot initiative in North Dakota lost.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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