It might take awhile for Minnesota to pass its cannabis legalization proposal, but when it does it should be a good one. House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler has promised “the best legalization bill in the country to date,” and says that its architects are learning from the successes and missteps of the 11 states that have legalized marijuana thus far.
The state’s politicians have once again announced their intent to pass cannabis regulation, and are forecasting the introduction of the bill among the first days of the legislative session, which opens next week.
However, they can’t say that they expect their plan to come to fruition this year. There’s the matter of the cannabis adverse, Republican-controlled State Senate. But any plan for marijuana legalization may also have to pass up to 23 committees to even make it to a floor vote, says Winkler.
What’s the good news? That with all the time it’s taken to affect legislative change, the state’s cannabis advocates have had an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the 11 states that have so far legalized the drug. Primary on their list of things to improve are ensuring that local producers take top priority in any fledgling cannabis industry.
“People want this to be a Minnesota-based, craft-type industry as far as possible,” said Winkler.
Republican leadership is not at all convinced that this would be a good thing. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka told a reporter that, “There was nothing good that would come out of [cannabis legalization].” He has expressed concerns over driving under the influence, and even cannabis’ effects on mental health and homelessness rates.
But Democrats say Gazelka and his peers may find themselves on the wrong side of history. “The people of Minnesota will roll over them eventually on issues like this,” said Winkler. “So they can decide to be speed bumps, or they can decide to be active participants in crafting policy.”
Can There Really Be Marijuana in Minnesota?
For all the political feet-dragging, some top officials have been intent on readying for cannabis regulation. In August, the governor announced that he had advised state agencies to prepare for the drug to be legalized.
“We will have everything ready to go, and we will be able to implement it in Minnesota the minute the Legislature moves this,” said Governor Tim Walz.
He’s not the only one that sees some urgency in the matter. In a survey conducted by the Minnesota Medical Association in 2019, a full 57 percent of the state’s doctors said that they considered adult-use cannabis to be a very important issue — though the health professionals were split on whether legalization would be a positive.
Medical marijuana sales have taken place in the state since 2015, when they were authorized for patients with nine qualifying conditions. The program has steadily expanded ever since. In December, new qualifiers were added to the system, including chronic pain.
This is far from the first time adult use legalization has been presented in Minnesota’s legislature. Last year, lawmakers introduced an adult use bill that would have legalized cannabis use for individuals 18 years and older, but the proposal never progressed to law.