Minnesota is behind the times. While medical marijuana is legal in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, the idea of recreational cannabis continues to fall by the wayside. But, why? In a supposedly progressive state where science and research programs are top notch, why the antiquated stance on cannabis? We find out.
The status of cannabis in Minnesota
Minnesota’s decision to legalize medical cannabis passed back in 2014, though it took a whopping four years for sales to actually commence. And since the medical market opened, the state has been at a standstill when it comes to cannabis legislation.
In May of this year, residents thought they had a chance of seeing recreational cannabis in the state when a legalization bill passed in the Minnesota House. HF600 was the first of its kind in the state and similar to what 18 states have already passed. While this bill excited many, it simply couldn’t make it past the Minnesota Senate, where HF600 went “up in smoke,” according to Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka.
Although the outcome was ultimately frustrating, the House passage of the bill was a big step for the state of Minnesota. It left residents feeling invigorated and hopeful about the future of recreational cannabis in the state. And, even though the bill didn’t pass in the Senate, it left some MN Senators more open to the idea of a new cannabis law.
Minnesota masters science and research…Why not cannabis?
While it is inevitable for some states to be iffy about the legalization of cannabis, the situation is perplexing in Minnesota. The state is well-known for its science and research programs and is home to the Minnesota Academy of Science, which has been embracing and promoting the beauty of science since the mid-1800s. With this propensity for forward thinking, you have to wonder: what’s holding Minnesota lawmakers back from taking the steps their cannabis community needs?
Though we don’t know the answer for sure, we can take a look into Minnesota’s other regulations — as well as its history — to get some clues. Minnesota State Representative Ryan Winkler explains, “Our politics in Minnesota tend to be more moralistic. We’ve got restrictive alcohol laws [and] we don’t have a ton of gambling.” This statement says a lot about the state’s overall viewpoint on recreational cannabis: It’s just too risky.
A major factor is that Minnesota doesn’t allow any statewide initiatives, and current Republican leadership is opposed to the idea of recreational cannabis usage. Even though Republicans barely control the Senate, they have enough of a majority to prevent cannabis bills from making any headway.
That said, activist groups like Minnesota NORML and Minnesota Campaign for Full Legalization advocate for adult-use legalization and safe, fair cannabis laws. These organizations recognize the harm the War on Drugs has created, and work to reverse this damage.
Is change on the horizon?
The recent debate over legalization has left people with high hopes that a bill will come around again during the 2022 election season, potentially with more well-thought-out regulations. This may give Republican Senate members time to realize the potential benefits of legalizing cannabis in Minnesota. We’ll have our fingers crossed.
How Minnesota can learn from other states
In the meantime, Minnesota can continue learning from the states that are seeing the benefits of legalization firsthand — both economically and ethically. One of the most significant components of the newest MN legalization bill deals with the racial disparities regarding marijuana arrests in the state. Regardless of legal status, overall arrest rates for Black men in the US for cannabis-related crimes are still incredibly disproportionate. These numbers have legislators across the country working to create decriminalization laws and lower punishments for minor cannabis-related crimes. Ryan Winkler says that this kind of ethical dilemma isn’t lost in his state, either.
“Racial inequities in the war on drugs are the number one reason why people support it. So one of the things we did was to really dive deep and understand what we could do in a legalization and regulatory scheme, and with taxation, that would actually make a difference on that,” Winkler explains. “We have very aggressive expungement provisions.” For expungement impact reports, you can go here.
Holding out hope for recreational cannabis in Minnesota
At the end of the day, we shouldn’t give up hope for adult-use cannabis in Minnesota — legislation is bound to be passed eventually. However, it appears as though MN residents have to be patient, cross their fingers, and hope that Senate leaders begin to see how other states are benefiting from legalization.