Minnesota may become the eleventh state in the Union to legalization recreational marijuana for adult-use.
State lawmakers introduced legislation earlier this week that would legalize recreational marijuana, create a system of taxation, and establish rules around adult use.
The bill, sponsored by State Sens. Melisa Franzen (Edina) and Scott Jensen and State Rep. Mike Freiberg, would allow Minnesotans 21 and older to possess, grow, and purchase limited amounts of cannabis.
The legislation also addresses licensing and business regulations to ensure the legal cultivation, processing, testing, and sale of marijuana to adults.
“Minnesota’s outdated prohibition policy has become more of a problem than a solution,” Freiberg said in a statement about the bill. “It is forcing marijuana into a shady underground market, which creates more potential harm for consumers and communities than marijuana itself.
“Regulating marijuana would make our state safer by removing the criminal element and empowering our state and local governments to start controlling productions and sales,” Freiberg said.
What would the bill do?
The proposed legislation would allow the state’s Department of Health to regulate marijuana dispensaries and establish a “seed-to-sale” tracking system for cannabis.
Like other marijuana bills, this proposed legislation allows for implementation largely in the hands of local governments.
Local governments would have the authority to regulate production and sale in their communities, allow for the expungement of specific cannabis-related crimes from arrest records, and prohibits the marketing of marijuana towards teenagers.
The bill would also establish a $10 million fund to be spent on an annual basis in impoverished communities that have been directly affected by the prohibition of marijuana in the state. Taxation revenue would also go towards the cost of mental health services in the state as well as educational efforts to combat impaired driving and drug education for teens.
“Our focus in drafting legislation to end the prohibition of cannabis in Minnesota is to ensure we have a responsible regulatory model for consumer access that still provides for public health, safety, and welfare,” Franzen said in a statement.
Utilizing usage rates and market prices in Colorado for comparison, the Marijuana Policy Project estimates that state-regulated marijuana sales in Minn. could result in over $200 million in annual tax revenue for the North Star State.
Is Minn. ready for new marijuana laws?
Minnesota is known for having a politically active population, with populism ironically being a longstanding power in political parties in the state. The major political parties in Minnesota are the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, of which Franzen and Freiberg are both members and the Republican Party.
In the 2008 U.S. presidential election, Minnesotans had the distinguished honor of having the highest percentage of voter turnout at 77.8 percent, far surpassing the national average of 61.7 percent.
A September 2018 KSTP/SurveyUSA poll found that 56 percent of the state’s voters felt that marijuana should be legalized for adults over the age of 21.
Jason Tarasek, co-founder of Minnesotans for Responsible Marijuana Regulation and political director for the Minnesota chapter of MPP, argued that the North Star State is ready to end the state’s pot-prohibition.
“It is time for Minnesota to recognize that, like alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, its prohibition of marijuana does not work,” Tarasek said.
“By legalizing marijuana and carefully regulating its sale, we can keep it out of the hands of teens without needlessly arresting responsible adult consumers. This would allow law enforcement to spend more time addressing serious crimes, while also creating a significant new revenue stream for our state.”
Pot politicos may have another state to keep an eye on, as the bill makes its way through the legislative process. If it passes, Minnesota will join ten other states that have legalized recreational marijuana use.