On November 6, 2018, Minnesotans will flock to the polls for the gubernatorial election. There are currently 17 candidates that have declared their candidacy, while there is a number of others who have expressed their interest in running. Prominent state leaders such as Governor Mark Dayton and Senator Amy Klobuchar have declined their bid for candidacy. The 2018 gubernatorial election will be pivotal to addressing state issues such as individual health insurance, police accountability, racial disparity, and most importantly, the legalization of pot. This election will be fundamental in postulating an opportunity for the upcoming governor to legalize recreational marijuana, becoming the ninth state to do so.
In Minnesota, cannabis is illegal for recreational purposes but legal for medical reasons. Governor Mark Dayton legalized medical marijuana in 2014 for conditions such as cancer, seizures, and some chronic diseases. When Minnesota legalized medical marijuana, it became the 22nd state in doing so; since then, seven more states have joined the list. Even though Governor Dayton played a prominent role in legalizing medical marijuana and being a strong advocate of it, he has not been sympathetic to the idea of legalizing it recreationally. During a Minnesota Public Radio interview at the Minnesota State Fair, Governor Dayton made it clear that recreational marijuana will not be legalized. During the interview, Governor Dayton said, “If somebody wants to use marijuana, go visit California or Colorado. But don’t bring it back here.”
Despite the robust support from members of the DFL (Democratic-Farmer-Labor) party, Governor Dayton refused to support bills and legislation that support the legalization of pot. A few months ago, Rep. Jon Applebaum introduced a bill to legalize recreational marijuana. Even though polls show that there is strong support for the legalization of recreational marijuana, Rep. Jon Applebaum’s bill gained little traction. A poll conducted during the State Fair revealed that 50.6 percent of the individuals polled would support a full legalization of recreational marijuana in the state.
Chris Coleman, current Mayor of Saint Paul and candidate for the 2018 Minnesota gubernatorial election, is one of the leading advocates of the legalization of recreational marijuana in the DFL party. In Coleman’s campaign website, he openly condemns the prohibition of marijuana and seeks to combat it for economic and racial reasons. In his platform, Coleman states, “For Social Justice. For Taxpayers. For Common Sense. It’s time to legalize it. Minnesota’s prohibition of marijuana is disproportionately hurting young people and people of color. Because of uneven enforcement of marijuana laws, legalization is about equal justice.” Besides the economic benefits, marijuana advocates strive for legalization to combat racial injustice. As the governor of Minnesota, Chris would allocate financial resources towards healthcare and education rather than perpetuating the drug war.
Besides the economic benefits, marijuana advocates strive for legalization to combat racial injustice. As the governor of Minnesota, Coleman would allocate financial resources towards healthcare and education rather than perpetuating the drug war.
Tim Walz, the representative for Minnesota’s 1congressional district, is also a gubernatorial candidate who has been supportive of legalizing recreational marijuana. Walz, who is running as a DFL candidate, expressed his concern for the failure and counterproductive results of the current drug policies. In an article by Southern Minnesota News, Walz stated, “We have an opportunity in Minnesota 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.” Walz also mentioned the correlation between the drug war and the racial inequality driven by it.
As of right now, no Republican gubernatorial candidate has expressed their support for the legalization of marijuana. Jeff Johnson, former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives and gubernatorial candidate for 2018, supported the 2014 bill legalizing medical marijuana but does not support legalizing recreational marijuana. In 2014, Johnson was the only Republican candidate governor who supported medical marijuana. Johnson supported the medical marijuana bill because it permitted people with serious illness to use the drug to combat the illness.
Besides these gubernatorial candidates, thousands of other Minnesotans have voiced their support for this cause. Notable organizations like the MN NORML (Minnesota National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and the ACLU-MN (American Civil Liberties of Minnesota) played a fundamental role in promoting the economic, civil liberty, and medical arguments for a more reasonable approach to the state’s drug policies. Although the support for recreational marijuana legalization has gained support across the state, the movement still faces barriers from law enforcement and various political leaders that blatantly oppose this legalization. With a little over a year away from the election, the topic of marijuana recreational legalization will be an issue many Minnesotans will keep in mind throughout the campaigns.