ST. PAUL, MN — Talks of legalizing marijuana for recreational use are back on at the Minnesota State Capitol.
Two Democratic lawmakers, Senator Melisa Franzen from Edina, and Representative Mike Freiberg from Golden Valley have proposed the legislation and say it’s just the beginning of what will be a long and contentious conversation.
If it were to become legal, Minnesota would join 10 other states who have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
“It’s going to be a long discussion. It will not be an easy one,” said Rep. Freiberg, DFL – Golden Valley.
H.F 420 and S.F 619 would legalize marijuana for anyone over the age of 21. It would impose strict state regulations on growth and sale, while also giving local government regulatory control in their communities.
“By doing so, we are making it safer by removing the need for the black market to exist, while eliminating the harm it has done for society,” said Franzen, DFL – Edina.
The bill has some support from at least one Republican Senator, that’s Scott Jensen says his support doesn’t come without concern.
“Legalization doesn’t mean it’s good for you. We’ve got tobacco and alcohol. That’s not necessarily good for you either. So, we have to partner legalization with prevention and make certain that we’re in front of this, not behind it,” said Jensen, R – Chaska.
The bill would allocate money for mental health education, and efforts to reduce impaired driving. It would also appropriate millions of dollars to communities negatively affected by the prohibition of marijuana.
“We need to make sure that cannabis doesn’t become another big tobacco, where it’s a product that’s a target to kids, through attractive flavors, through attractive marketing campaigns. We need to put strong, public health protections in place to make sure there’s a minimum age of 21. This bill will do that, said Freiberg.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has expressed opposition to it, calling it “controversial”, and not something he considers a “priority issue.”
“We need to have the discussion. This isn’t about getting a bill passed this session. This is about moving the conversation forward,” said Jensen.
The Marijuana Policy Project estimates regulated marijuana sales could generate as much as $300 million per year in new tax revenue.
This is the second such bill to come up in Minnesota this year.
One came forward earlier this month, that was similar in policy, and posed the issue as a ballot question for voters to decide.
Governor Walz has said he will sign legislation that supports the legalization of recreational marijuana.