Minnesota lawmakers passed a bill for the first time to legalize recreational marijuana. Members of the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee voted on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 7 a.m. to move the measure forward. DFL members supported the measure, Republicans did not.
Ryan Winkler, chairman of the house majority, DFL-Golden Valley, said the goal of his bill is to create a safe and legal marketplace for adults where cannabis can be consumed. “From a health perspective, a racial justice perspective, a criminal justice reform perspective, an opportunity to better regulate a product that can be used responsibly, it is time for Minnesota to change its cannabis laws,” Winkler said.
Details of Minnesota Legalization of Marijuana Act
The bill establishes a legal framework for adult cannabis use and sets taxes. A new cannabis management board would be set up to oversee recreational use as well as the state’s existing medical marijuana program. Other sections of the bill, such as the deletion of marijuana-related offenses, will be heard by another House committee during a future hearing.
Support and opposition
Supporters and opponents testified during the remote hearing. Marcus Harcus of Minneapolis was one of the people who voted for the bill. “Cannabis is a medicinal plant, not a dangerous drug,” said Harcus. “The most dangerous thing about cannabis is getting caught with it.”
Ryan Hamilton of the Minnesota Catholic Conference was one of those who spoke out against the bill. “It’s bad bill for teenagers, it’s bad for our brothers and sisters with drug problems, it’s bad for those who use our highways, and it’s bad for the common good,” said Hamilton.
Governor Tim Walz supports the effort. However, the bill faces several hurdles, including strong opposition in the Senate. R-East Gull Lake Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has repeatedly stated that he does not support legalization. Senator Melisa Franzen, DFL-Edina, is the main sponsor of the accompanying law in the Senate.
Walz has been supporting legal marijuana in the state since 2019. From fees to ID cards, there was an in-depth look at the Walz budget. Winkler tabled the same bill in the last session, but the COVID-19 pandemic bothered them and was repealed. He drafted the legislation using input gathered through a series of meetings across the state.
The chairman of the committee, Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, praised Winkler for these efforts. “The people of Minnesota should really be proud of the way you approached this issue and the work product that was developed because of it,” said Stephenson.
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