Democratic lawmakers in Minnesota have begun their push for marijuana legalization, with a bill clearing the first of many legislative hurdles this week.
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.
It was introduced by Democrats in the Minnesota House of Representatives last week.
“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. Our current laws are doing more harm than good. State and local governments are spending millions enforcing laws that aren’t helping anyone.”
Stephenson and his fellow Democrats in St. Paul have long been eager to bring cannabis legalization to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but they have until now been stymied 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.
The news service recapped amendments that were considered at the committee meeting on Wednesday:
“The subject of local control — or lack thereof — was the subject of an amendment unsuccessfully offered by Rep. Kurt Daudt (R-Crown). It would have given cities or towns options to enact local ordinances regulating cannabis business licenses that could differ from those proposed statewide. Two other Republican amendments were adopted. One offered by Rep. Anne Neu Brindley (R-North Branch) would add a health warning for pregnant or breastfeeding women on cannabis products. And an amendment from Rep. Jeff Dotseth (R-Kettle River) would require the Office of Cannabis Management to study the health effects of secondhand cannabis smoke. 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.”
Polls have shown that Minnesota voters are ready to enter a post-prohibition era.
The moves by state Democrats were foreshadowed by one of Minnesota’s best-known politicians, former Gov. Jesse Ventura, who said after the November elections that Walz had called him directly to say that legalization would get done.
“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.”
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