With their new majority in both chambers, Minnesota Democrats on Thursday promised to legalize recreational marijuana this session, opening a path for the initiative that Republicans had previously blocked.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, predicts that adult-use marijuana will be legalized in 2023. “Minnesota shouldn’t have a prohibition on Marijuana. Minnesotans ought to have the liberty and respect to choose cannabis responsibly for themselves. More harm than good is being done by our current laws.”
The comprehensive bill, which is close to 250 pages long, would make it legal for Minnesotans aged 21 and over to buy, sell, and use cannabis recreationally. Additionally, it would have the effect of expunging low-level cannabis convictions, which Democrats claim to be an equity issue due to the fact that Black individuals are disproportionately detained for possession, per data from the ACLU.
In the Senate, which was then controlled by Republicans, the bill failed to move after passing the Minnesota House two years prior. Though concerns were raised, GOP Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, urged Democrats not to rush to pass in a statement.
Its first hearing is set for early next week, but because it will be examined in several committees, the legislative process will probably take months to complete. He said, “We don’t take lightly the risks that Marijuana poses to adolescents, minorities, and the defenseless.”
The Senate DFL will have to determine whether they want to hurry this process in order to appease their political allies or take their time to consider whether full-scale legalization is the best course of action for Minnesota. According to Stephenson, the proposal is basically unchanged from the previous draft but now takes into account consumable forms of THC derived from hemp, which became legal last summer.
He said that the bill will fill up some of the gaps in that statute, such as the lack of any new fees or licensing requirements. He said that there would be uniform regulation and taxation of all hemp and marijuana goods. A new rule that permits buyers over the age of 21 to purchase edibles and drinks with a certain quantity of THC derived from hemp took effect in July.
Sen. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), the chair of the Senate Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committee, asserted that he was unaware that the new law would permit edibles containing delta-9 THC rather than just regulating those containing delta-8 THC. It appeared as though a mistake led to its legalization.
President Joe Biden announced in October that he would pardon those who had only violated federal law by possessing marijuana for personal use and that he had directed his staff to reassess the federal law’s current treatment of cannabis.