Marijuana legalization: Minnesota’s next step?

Tiana Meador

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As of Nov. 6 2018, Michigan became the 10th state to join Colorado, Alaska, California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, and the District of Columbia to fully legalize marijuana.

The divisive issue that faces Minnesota is not traditionally a partisan issue however, although greatly celebrated on the left, marijuana also resonates with many republicans as a less threatening alternative to alcohol, drugs, and even the tobacco industry. As eight states (Minnesota included) have turned to medicalizing and decriminalized the drug, with 14 medicalizing it, three decriminalizing, and only 15 keeping its illegal status, the pressure is on to join the community of states making a progressive push. 

Tom Gallagher, who spoke with The Growth OP, also a criminal defence attorney serving on the board of NORML said, “In Minnesota, the people want it already. A lot of politicians would rather not be bothered with it. We think this is a very important issue because people are sitting in prison just rotting away, the families are wasting away without their family members. They’re not making money, they’re not paying taxes, we think it’s very important.”

Tim Walz, incoming Governor, believes that since the DFL party has now gained control of the House of Representatives, that Minnesota has a clear chance of pushing the movement into law. Other supporters include Forbes, who penned Minnesota as one of the most likely states to legalize in 2019.

“[We pledge to] Replace the current failed policy with one that creates tax revenue, grows jobs, builds opportunities for Minnesotans, protects Minnesota kids, and trusts adults to make personal decisions based on their personal freedoms,” said Walz.

In a forum moderated by MPR News, readers shared their opinions on the possible legislative opportunity.

When asked the pros and cons of marijuana legalization, St. Paul resident Sheldon Gitis said, “That’s the wrong question. The only issue is whether or not legal, taxed and regulated cannabis is better than an illegal, unregulated, and untaxed black market marijuana. The answer is a no-brainer. No one’s dying from consuming cannabis flowers. People are getting shot and killed buying and selling outrageously overpriced illegal weed.”

Furthermore, through a Survey Monkey, sent out to 545 University of Minnesota students, out of 435 responses, 78 percent supported full legalization of marijuana, with 13 percent preferring it keep medical status, and 9 percent believing it should regain criminal status (illegalization).

Mike Kisler, another respondent to MPR’s survey went further into depth, “Eliminate the inherently dangerous “drug deal” and replace with well lit, safe marketplace. That marketplace would check buyer Real ID to verify the purchaser is of legal age. Then product that has been tested for contaminants like pesticides and mold is sold. The money exchanged is subject to taxes and the people employed pay into Social Security and Medicare. The workers also have health care. The money is diverted from the underground illegal market and pays dividends to proprietors and investors who then contribute to the community. “

Although the discussion is making leaps and bounds with the community, there is still political disconnect in the house. Many political experts, including David Schultz, a Hamline University political expert told 5 Eyewitness News, that the legalization of marijuana in 2019 may still be a long shot. Although there is an informative push, it seems to be out of the hands of the pro-weed constituents.

“Legalization brings light and transparency to an activity that is already well established. Prevention education is advanced beyond the ‘It’s illegal, just say no,’ to an honest and truly informative discussion, more like the the way it is with tobacco now,” continued Kisler.