MN DFLers say this is the year cannabis will be legalized

Minnesotans age 21 and older will be able to purchase cannabis for personal use before the end of the year if the slim majority of Minnesotans Democrats in the St. Paul Legislature stick together.

“Cannabis should not be illegal in Minnesota,” Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids. “Minnesotans deserve the freedom and respect to make responsible decisions about cannabis. Our current laws are doing more harm than good.”

Stephenson is the lead sponsor of a House bill to legalize marijuana, regulate its sale and expunge criminal records related to its prohibition. A similar bill passed in the last House session with bipartisan support after 14 committee hearings only to die in the Senate.

The difference this year is that the Democrats won a one-seat majority in the Senate. Senator Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville, the lead sponsor in the Senate, said she was committed to winning support for the bill this session.

Angela Dawson, a Pine County hemp farmer and co-founder of 40 Acre Coop, discusses her support for legislation to legalize cannabis for adult use at a press conference Thursday, Jan. 5, at the Capitol in St. Paul. The bill sponsors Senator Lindsay Port, DFL-Burnsville, Senator Clare Oumou Verbeten, DFL-St. Paul and Rep. Zach Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, said they expect the bill to pass this session with bipartisan support. (Christopher Magan/Pioneer Press)

Rural support, criminal record expungement

Doing so would help residents like Angela Dawson, a fourth-generation hemp farmer in Pine County who co-founded the 40 Acre Coop, who said rural communities could benefit from jobs related to legalization.

Dawson also noted that the legislation would also help people of color who are disproportionately affected by current laws.

“People are looking for jobs in rural Minnesota and they see cannabis as a clear opportunity,” Dawson said.

The new senator Clare Oumou Verbeten, DFL-St. Paul, emphasized the importance of including expungement in the legislation.

“This is a racial justice issue,” he said. “We are going to correct these errors.”

Olivia Morawiecki founded Kursiv Organics after using hemp and cannabis to treat what she called debilitating digestive problems. She said that clients of hers use her products to relieve insomnia, anxiety and pain.

“Not to get high, but to heal,” Morawiecki said.

concerns of some

Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, urged lawmakers to be cautious about changes to marijuana laws, noting that police, teachers and addiction counselors have concerns about the legalization of cannabis for recreational use.

“Concerns about the full legalization of marijuana should not be rushed,” Johnson said in a statement. “We know that even small changes in this area of ​​the law can lead to big changes in the marketplace and in people’s practices. We do not take lightly the risks marijuana poses to youth, minorities, and the vulnerable.”

Public acceptance of cannabis and hemp as a medicine and as a recreational drug has grown dramatically in the last decade. Recreational marijuana is now legal in more than 20 states, and 37 allow its use for medical purposes.

Early in the prohibition transition, recreational cannabis was seen as a financial boon for some states. Rep. Aisha Gomez, DFL-Minneapolis, another sponsor of the bill, said lawmakers don’t see legalization as a way to raise more tax revenue.

“The cannabis taxes in our bill are not going to solve any of our social problems,” Gomez said. He added that a tax rate probably less than 10 percent is expected to raise up to $150 million a year that would be needed to pay for industry oversight.

hearings ahead

Rep. Stephenson’s bill is expected to be debated in the House finance committee next week. Senator Port’s companion bill should have its first hearing later in January.

Legislation coming out of committee should also address some of the confusion surrounding a bill passed last year that sets new state limits for Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, derived from hemp.

That law put a limit of 5 milligrams per serving on produce that’s a stricter threshold than what’s in the 2018 federal farm bill.

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