Minnesota Legislators Begin The Process of Marijuana Legalization!

When a parliamentary committee held the first hearing of the year on a bill that supporters claim is intended to avoid the issues experienced by states that have already legalized it, the Minnesota Legislature took a step toward the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults on Wednesday.

The proposed legislation is an update of one that was approved by the Minnesota House in 2021 with some bipartisan support but was defeated by the Republican-controlled state Senate. The bill’s proponents assert that they are confident they can get it on Democratic Governor Tim Walz’s desk for his signature now that both chambers have Democratic majorities.

The bill was approved by the House Commerce Committee on a voice vote and referred to the next of the chamber’s anticipated twelve committees for review. Furthermore, it has a challenging path in the Senate. “Minneapolitans are prepared.

Minnesota Legislators Begin The Process of Marijuana Legalization!

The chair of the committee and Democratic representative from Coon Rapids, Zack Stephenson, said marijuana shouldn’t be outlawed in Minnesota. “Minnesotans deserve the freedom and respect to make their own informed decisions regarding cannabis.

Our existing laws are having the opposite effect of what they are intended to achieve.” The pardoning of thousands of people convicted on federal charges of simple marijuana possession by President Joe Biden in October has given the movement toward state-level legalization fresh life.

According to a count by the National Council of State Legislatures, after Maryland and Missouri approved adult-use cannabis through ballot initiatives in 2022, there are now 21 states that have legalized recreational marijuana in addition to the District of Columbia.

Minnesota Legislators Begin The Process of Marijuana Legalization!

Connecticut’s legal sales started on Tuesday. The first legal dispensary in New York opened its doors two weeks ago. On March 7, voters in Oklahoma will decide whether to legalize it. Stephenson referred to his legislation as a “Minnesota-specific model” that draws knowledge from the contradictory results of other states that have attempted to supplant the black market for cannabis and associated goods.

And according to him, it has “a robust expungement program” so that the disproportionate number of people of color who are convicted of misdemeanor marijuana charges can move on with their lives. Former Democratic House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler served as the plan’s primary architect and saw it through three years of preparation before the House approved it in 2021.

He is the head of the MN Is Ready Action Campaign on a volunteer basis, which aims to complete it now that he is no longer in office. At a briefing for media on Tuesday, Winkler said, “The biggest policy purpose of the law is to change an illicit trade into a legal, regulated marketplace.” The state does not intend to profit significantly from the cannabis industry.

Minnesota Legislators Begin The Process of Marijuana Legalization!

Winkler said backers have learned from problems experienced by other states, such as California and Oregon, where high taxes and tough regulations have complicated efforts to develop functional legal marketplaces for cannabis and perpetuated illicit sales of cheaper illegal products while making it hard for small growers to make a profit.

Retail marijuana sales in Minnesota would only be subject to an additional 8% tax on top of the state’s already-existing sales tax, which ranges from 7% to 8% depending on the locality. According to him, the goal is to just cover the expenditures associated with cannabis regulation, not to raise money for additional government initiatives.

If taxes are too high or regulations are too cumbersome, a sizable underground marketplace can easily continue, as we’ve seen in other jurisdictions, according to Winkler. Therefore, we are attempting to avoid the major errors committed in states like California, where they essentially became anchored in enormous illegal marketplaces.

The plan’s detractors said that it would increase substance misuse in Minnesota and have negative social and public safety effects. County and city representatives asked the committee to make sure that local governments would have the authority to control cannabis sales, just as they do with alcohol and cigarettes.

Ryan Hamilton, a lobbyist for the Minnesota Catholic Conference, stated that for every person wounded by the war on drugs who achieves redemption from expungement, “countless children, adolescents, and vulnerable adults” will be affected by the normalization of drug use.

The harm that today’s high-potency recreational marijuana will do to Minnesota families and our quality of life cannot be stopped by regulation, according to Hamilton. Democratic senators are being urged not to rush the process by Republican Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson of East Grand Forks.

Johnson said in a statement last week that “we need to hear from law enforcement, employers, addiction specialists, educators, and other people who have concerns about legalizing marijuana.” “We are aware that even minor changes to the law in this area can have a significant impact on the market and people’s behavior. We don’t take lightly the risks that marijuana poses to children, minorities, and the weak.

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