Lawmakers in Minnesota are starting a discussion about legalizing recreational marijuana use. Minnesota has been on a short list of states to watch in terms of areas that might go this route next, and there is already a legalized medical marijuana program in place in the Midwestern state. Now, bills are being introduced to take things to the next level, but some signal that it may be too soon to expect this to pass.
The Associated Press reports that two bills were introduced on Monday to propose legalizing recreational cannabis in Minnesota. Edina Democratic Senator Melisa Franzen and Democratic House Representative Mike Freiberg have initiated the bills, and their proposal would look toward creating a framework for selling and taxing recreational marijuana beginning in 2020.
Marijuana Moment details that in the Senate, Chaska Republican Scott Jensen is co-sponsoring the bill with Franzen. Jensen, a physician, says that his feelings on the topic have quickly evolved over the past few months, and he thinks it’s time for a serious discussion regarding legalizing recreational use.
The move by Freiberg, Jensen, and Franzen comes just days after a bill was introduced that would put an initiative on the 2020 ballot related to the topic. MPR News details that the ballot initiative would push to add an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution to allow legalizing recreational cannabis use. The bill was introduced last week by Minneapolis Democrat Raymond Dehn.
DFLers Sen. @MelisaFranzen and @RepFreiberg, along with GOP Sen. @drscottjensen introduce a bill legalizing recreational marijuana in Minnesota for people at least 21 years old. #mnleg pic.twitter.com/Bi23poUGrP— Theo Keith (@TheoKeith) January 28, 2019
Minnesota’s new governor, former House Representative Tim Walz, has voiced support for legalizing marijuana recreationally in the state. In fact, as Kare11 notes, Walz had been the first representative to get a cannabis-related bill put through a committee while he was in Congress. Walz has indicated that if a bill supporting recreational legalization were to make it to his desk, he would sign it.
Despite what appears to be fairly consistent Democratic support for making this move in Minnesota, it wouldn’t be a slam-dunk to see legalization passed. In fact, the bills proposed on Monday may have a tough time making much forward progress at all. While the House went blue with the midterm elections, the Senate is still held by Republicans.
Senate Republican Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has already issued a statement on the topic of legalizing cannabis in Minnesota, and he’s made it clear he won’t be supporting the effort. Gazelka released a statement and shared it via his Twitter account, noting that in his viewpoint, this isn’t a priority issue and comes with numerous concerns. He went on to say that he doesn’t think a bill like this has the chance to make it through the Senate this year.
“Legalizing recreational marijuana is not something I would consider a priority issue. Due to it’s linkage to mental health problems, driving accidents, and impaired teen brain development, I don’t think it has a chance to pass the Senate this year.” #mnleg #mnsenate pic.twitter.com/lAz3yXgHF8— Paul Gazelka (@paulgazelka) January 28, 2019
How do Minnesotans themselves feel about the topic? A couple of informal polls show a great deal of support for legalizing recreational use. WCCO Radio ran a poll on its site that shows 97 percent of responders in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. In addition, a Star Tribune poll showed 78 percent responding in support of legalized recreational cannabis.
A handful of states have already implemented a legalization framework, and it is thought that additional states will join in over the next year or two. Will Minnesota be one of them? It looks like it could be a fierce battle, but all signs point toward a discussion at least being on the horizon.