Will 2023 be the year Minnesota legalizes weed? The odds are higher than ever – Duluth News Tribune

ST. PAUL — With Democrats in complete control of Minnesota’s government, the odds of the state legalizing recreational marijuana seem the strongest they’ve ever been.

For the past six years, St. Paul’s divided government has stood in the way of any effort to bring legal marijuana to Minnesota. Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015 and were unwilling to budge on the issue. But now that the Democratic-Farmer-Labour Party holds the House and the governorship and has won a 34-33 majority in the Senate, things could change quickly.

“The odds have never been better,” said Kurtis Hanna, a lobbyist for adult cannabis use and co-founder of NORML Minnesota, a legalization advocacy group.

While Democrats in the House and Senate have yet to unveil their priorities for the 2023 legislative session, Gov. Tim Walz and prominent DFL lawmakers have already expressed support for legalization. During a live stream this week, former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura said Walz told him that legalization was one of the first things he hopes to do when the Legislature meets in new on January 3. A spokesperson for Walz confirmed the comments to WCCO-TV on Thursday.

Walz called for the legalization of recreational marijuana in his supplemental budget recommendations earlier this year. And when he took office in 2019, he ordered state agencies to start preparing for possible legalization. He is the first governor to support the policy.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz presents his administration’s supplemental budget recommendations Jan. 26 to reporters during a news conference at the Department of Revenue in St. Paul.

Alex Derosier / Dossier / Forum News Service

What could legalization look like in Minnesota? The governor recommended funding for a new cannabis management office to regulate the industry, grants for business owners seeking to enter the legal market, and education programs on the potential harmful effects of use. of marijuana. He also called for a marijuana tax and the expungement of nonviolent offenses involving marijuana.

Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said the marijuana ban hasn’t worked for Minnesota and that the state should instead seek to exploit its economic advantages and allow law enforcement to focus on violent crimes.

The Minnesota House in 2021 approved a bill legalizing recreational marijuana and overturning previous convictions for low-level possession, but it was never heard in the Senate. Hanna said Senate Republicans had drawn a clear line in the sand in the early months of Walz’s first term and he didn’t expect that position to change if they gained another four years of control. .

At a press conference Thursday, new Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, wouldn’t say whether fellow Republicans would change on the issue. The Senate DFLs were also evasive on Wednesday.

Historically, opponents of legalization have included the Minnesota Insurance Federation, the Minnesota Catholic Conference, and the state’s trucking and police associations. Concerns include road safety issues and potential negative impacts on mental health.

Minnesota already took a big step toward legalizing recreational marijuana for adults earlier this year. A law that took effect on July 1 allowed the sale of foods and beverages containing THC in the state.

People 21 and older can buy products with up to 5 milligrams of THC. A single package of edibles — or drinks — cannot contain more than 50 milligrams. Products must be derived from legally certified hemp, which contains no more than 0.3% THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive part of cannabis.

“The fact that half of the toothpaste is already out of the tube due to last session’s passing of the Hemp-Derived THC Act means that this policy proposal is not as radical a change for Minnesotans, who have been able to buy THC drinks in bars and restaurants since the summer,” Hanna said.

The move surprised many, including some of the lawmakers who voted in favor.

Some holes remain after Minnesota legalized THC edibles and drink products, namely enforcement and regulation. THC edibles may be legal under the new law, but the issue of enforcement is not addressed. While the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy is responsible for regulating cannabis-containing products, enforcement falls to cities and counties. Full legalization will likely come with tougher national regulations and taxes.

Legal recreational marijuana could potentially generate large amounts of revenue for the state. A University of Minnesota Duluth study released in August found the state was missing out on up to $46 million in revenue from legal edibles alone, which are currently untaxed.

On Tuesday, voters in Maryland and Missouri approved legal recreational marijuana. A ballot measure in North Dakota failed.

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