As Minnesota looks to join Alaska, California, Colorado, and 15 other states as well as Washington D.C. and Guam in legalizing marijuana for recreational use. With bipartisan support in the Democrat-controlled House, the vote came in 72-61 back in May 2021 at the end of that session. This bill would serve multiple purposes, as it would not only legalize the use of marijuana for adults but would also expunge the convictions for minor cannabis convictions.
Despite this bill being pushed as a step towards racial equality by removing a law that has criminalized minorities for decades, it is not likely to pass the Senate and a group of businesses, trade groups, and social organizations want to ensure it never even makes it there. Formally known as Minnesotans Against Marijuana Legalization (MAML), this coalition is comprised of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, a policy arm of the Catholic Church of Minnesota, Minnesota Trucking Association, the State Police & Peace Officers Association, and clusters of private citizens.
Ryan Hamilton of the Minnesota Catholic Conference held a news conference this past Monday, and let it be known why his group is so against this bill. “The marijuana bill that passed the Minnesota House last session wasn’t a justice bill, it was a marijuana commercialization bill. As we’ve seen from other states that have opened the doors for the marijuana industry, the promises made to justify marijuana legalization rarely come true, particularly for communities of color.” Notice how he refuses to see the potential to do this part right, he instead just sticks with the idea of not bothering to do it at all.
States who have embraced legalization have had their fair share of difficulties in setting the system up appropriately. They need to give better opportunities to people of color since they are promising this when they are campaigning behind the idea of marijuana legalization and making things right. As this issue is one the left loves jumping all over, they consistently fail to bring about any real change, they just instead keep pushing the same rhetoric that gets them into office, but then blame the right for it not being implemented the way they envisioned.
As it awaits a Republican-led Senate, the bill has been on the shelf for months. This is an opportunity to not only potentially bridge a massive divide in the state, but also amongst the parties. Since the murder of George Floyd, Minnesotans have been looking to find a way to bridge the divide between parties, color, and socioeconomic background. The legalization of cannabis has the potential to do just that.
Taking this bill and encouraging it to enter the Senate would be a huge step for the Republicans of Minnesota. They have been looking for a way to gain back the lost minority votes, and to get more young blood into the party. By bringing this up and with the support of the House Republicans who already voted for the bill, they would stand a good chance of drawing in new members to the party. This is something the party certainly needs more now than ever.
While Minnesota already has medicinal marijuana, the regulations, barriers to entry, and locations of dispensaries make it one of the most difficult to obtain in the country. Legalizing it recreationally would eliminate these hurdles and bring Minnesota into a new age of prosperity and tourism. Given how cold and remote much of the state is, most Minnesotans would agree that it would be a great thing for the state to have. If the state Senate doesn’t get things going soon, then Minnesotans will have the option of getting them out with the 2022 midterms drawing near.