Two Minnesota marijuana legalization parties given major party status

Minnesota made history in multiple ways in the 2018 midterm elections. Voter turnout was groundbreaking; the first Somali American legislator, Ilhan Omar, was voted into the U.S. House of Representatives; and Minnesota’s blue streak was maintained. Something new, however, came about this fall with the growth of the Legalize Marijuana Now Party and the Grassroots Legalize Cannabis Party. They are both expected to become major parties this coming winter.

The Legalize Marijuana Now Party and Grassroots Party have slowly been gaining momentum through the years, and this year at midterms, each had a candidate up for statewide positions in the government. The two parties raked in enough votes this year to be considered major parties, though votes are still being canvassed and certified.

Michael Ford of the Legalize Marijuana Now Party ran for state auditor against Julie Blaha (D) and Pam Myhra (R). Ford lost to both, Blaha taking the seat, but he still managed to gain 5.3 percent of the vote — a total of over 133,000 votes. Anything greater than five percent of votes in a single race is enough to consider the Legalize Marijuana Now Party a major party in Minnesota. Additionally, the Grassroots Legalize Cannabis Party garnered 5.7 percent of votes for candidate Noah Johnson, who ran in the attorney general election.

“I think it’s time for people to stand up. I think it’s time for the legislature to let the people decide on whether marijuana should be legal or not,” Ford said in an interview with WCCO.

The Grassroots Legalize Cannabis Party hopes its policies will appeal to more than just five percent of voters, especially considering they must chalk up at least one vote in each county to officially be declared as a major party in Minnesota.

The state will continue to count ballots and ensure there is a vote for both the Legalize Marijuana Now Party and the Grassroots Legalize Cannabis Party in every county before declaring them major parties. Having a vote in each county will not only allow them to be major parties but will improve their reach and spread their influence.

The members of the Grassroots Legalize Cannabis Party want Minnesotans to understand that marijuana legalization is not a partisan issue.

“Right now, I think we have a little impasse with the Republicans,” Chris Wright of the Grassroots Legalize Cannabis Party said in an interview with WCCO. “We’re hoping our Republican friends will come around on the issue and see that this is a way to raise revenue.”

While the two parties have different names, many wonder whether they stand for the same issues. The bottom line is, both parties are different and have different opinions on the smaller issues. They even endorse different candidates. However, they refuse to be pitted against one another.

“[The Grassroots Party] divided into two herbal-liberation political parties because the volunteers disagree about the use of the expression ‘marijuana.’ And the ‘Legalize Cannabis’ suffix was attached to the Grassroots Party when a Capitol reporter claimed that no one has called cannabis ‘grass’ for about 40 years now. The two groups try to be allies, not rivals. They haven’t run competing candidates for the same office,” reads the Legalize Marijauana Now MN Facebook page.

The two parties don’t seem to have totaled many votes overall because some members of the public believe they are throwing their votes away, but the parties push on. They believe legalizing marijuana will be better for the economy and crime rates, among other factors. It seems they are not alone in this view.

“Should Minnesota follow Colorado’s lead? Do you want marijuana legalized in Minnesota?” asks a poll from WCCO’s radio website.

Of 1,096 responses, admittedly a small sample size, 97 percent responded yes, two percent voted no, and only one percent were undecided. This poll, posted on November 6, the day of the election, foreshadowed some of the polling results for the marijuana legalization parties.

Becoming a major party will benefit the two parties by giving them automatic access to the ballot and obtaining state subsidies for any candidates on the ballot. They also have the opportunity to become a part of any debates between the two major parties. Votes continue to be verified, but it is expected that both parties will be confirmed as major parties by the end of winter.