Democratic lawmakers in Minnesota wasted no time in their efforts to legalize recreational marijuana in the state this year, as they introduced a bill on Thursday that would do just that.
The legislation, spanning 243 pages, “would set up a regulatory framework and permit cannabis use for any reason for people 21 and older,” according to Minnesota Public Radio, which noted that legal “marijuana sales and use would begin within months of passage of [the bill].”
“Cannabis should not be illegal in Minnesota,” Democratic state House Rep. Zack Stephenson, one of the bill’s authors, said at a press conference on Thursday at the state capitol in St. Paul, as quoted by Minnesota Public Radio. “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.”
Local news station WCCO reports that the proposal would “legalize the purchase, sale and use of recreational cannabis for Minnesotans 21 or older,” and would also “expunge low-level cannabis convictions, which Democrats say is an equity issue because Black residents are disproportionately arrested for possession, according to data from the ACLU.”
“We designed this bill to address the wrongs of prohibition, to bring people out of the illicit market and into a regulated market, which means that we tried to not have a really high tax on cannabis so that it can compete,” said Democratic state House Rep. Aisha Gomez, as quoted by Minnesota Public Radio.
Democrats there are bullish that this will be the year Minnesota joins the dozens of other states to end the prohibition on pot.
“I believe 2023 will be the year we legalize adult-use cannabis,” Stephenson said at the press conference on Thursday, as quoted by WCCO.
Stephenson is right to be confident about the bill’s prospects. Democrats won back control of the state Senate in November’s elections and retained their majority in the state House. The state’s Democratic governor, Tim Walz, also secured re-election last year, and has long championed cannabis legalization.
“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 on Thursday.
The move by state Democrats on Thursday was telegraphed by one of Walz’s predecessors.
Following the November elections, former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura said that Walz pledged to him personally that Democrats would get legalization over the line in 2023.
“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.”
There is reason to believe that voters in the Land of 10,000 Lakes are ready for legalization, too.
A poll released in September found that 53% of voters in Minnesota support legalizing recreational pot use, while only 36% of voters there said they were opposed.
Minnesotans don’t have to wait for the bill’s passage to get a fix though. A law that took effect last summer authorized the sale of food and beverages containing a small amount of THC.