Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced his plans for the full legalization of marijuana in the state by next year. He also invited former governor Jesse Venture, a longtime advocate for cannabis reform, to the signing ceremony once a legalization bill is on his desk.
Ventura detailed his conversation with Walz, including their discussion about the effects of the mid-term election results. Walz’s office also disclosed the possibility of the two working together toward statewide marijuana legalization. The recently reelected governor hopes to lift the ban on cannabis, marking it as a priority for the state’s legislature.
Walz wants Ventura to attend the signing ceremony because of his longtime advocacy for legalizing cannabis when he was the governor of Minnesota. He believes Ventura deserves to be at the ceremony after twenty years of fighting for this issue.
The governor’s office didn’t talk about how Walz and Ventura plan to collaborate in the future. However, Democratic senators said marijuana legalization is a primary topic for the caucus to discuss while determining its legislative priorities for next year.
Efforts in the Push for Recreational Marijuana
Cannabis is legal in Minnesota for medical use but not for recreational purposes. The current law allows adults 21 and older to possess and use cannabis products to treat a qualifying medical condition. Patients must enroll in a medical cannabis patient registry run by a health department and submit a new certification yearly.
Recreational legalization seems more promising after voters flipped the state Senate during midterms and reelected the pro-reform governor Walz. Democrats now have majorities in both chambers.
Senator Erin Murphy led marijuana campaign efforts for the Democratic party. She might be elected as the new majority leader and announced her plans to get together with other party members to discuss their future agenda.
Last year, a legalization bill from House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler passed the House. It had to move through twelve committees before making it to the floor. However, it stalled in the GOP-controlled Senate. Another bipartisan legalization bill proposed by Senators Scott Jensen and Melisa López Franzen in 2019 didn’t advance either.
Franzen tried to bypass the committee process by leveraging a legislative procedure earlier in the year to push legalization to the floor more efficiently. However, the motion didn’t obtain the supermajority support required to reach the floor.
Residents Show Significant Support for Legalizing Cannabis
The coalition director for the MNisReady Coalition discussed optimism and excitement about the possibility of full legalization in 2023. The coalition hoped to inspire more voters to speak out about legalizing cannabis and support candidates pushing for full legalization by launching a voter education resource.
In September, the MNisReady Coalition released two polls on the current issue. The results show support for adult-use marijuana by a majority of Minnesota residents. One of the surveys also shows support for the legalization of THC-infused edibles, a law enacted earlier this year.
Plans for Legalization in a Regulated Market
After winning his reelection bid against former Senator Scott Jensen, Walz has been pushing for cannabis legalization in a regulated market. His efforts include adding funding to this year’s budget proposal to lawmakers.
He declined to propose implementation funding in his last budget proposal. However, he now believes funding multiple departments and programs is necessary to launch an adult-use marijuana market. His funding recommendations would go to many state agencies, including ones dealing with health, the state Supreme Court, education, corrections, public safety, and human services. The proposed budget also includes funding for expunging nonviolent crimes involving marijuana, grants assisting people entering the legal market, and taxes on adult-use cannabis.
In a recent press conference, Walz continued to address his support for legalization and discussed how the legislature still needs to send him a bill on the issue.
Officials with the House conducted a survey at the annual State Fair and released the results in September. The survey included various policy proposals, including instituting a school voucher system, legalizing gambling, and creating a permanent absentee voter list. However, marijuana legalization seemed to be the most popular issue among Missouri residents.
The results show 61% of participants support legalizing cannabis for adult use. Only 30% oppose legalization, and 8% haven’t decided where they stand.
Attempts to Advance Cannabis Reform
In January, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler and Senator Melisa López Franzen discussed their plans for advancing cannabis reform this year. Winkler said the bill involved thousands of people offering their input and hundreds of hours of hard work.
Winkler’s staff and some Democrats found themselves tangled up in controversy over an alleged attempt at changing the name of a third party focusing on marijuana. Some believed the attempts somehow undercut Democratic support on previous ballots. However, the change was supposed to appeal to far-right conservatives and steer votes away from Republicans during the election.
Although last year’s plans to legalize recreational cannabis failed, the governor signed a bill to expand marijuana for medical use across the state. Initially, the law only allowed oils, liquids, and pills made of cannabis. New legislation that became effective on May 3rd legalized the sale of smokable flower.
The legislature also passed a bill this summer to legalize hemp-derived THC products. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary intoxicant in marijuana plants. The state’s controlled substances list now excludes industrial hemp products containing up to 0.03% of any form of THC. The new law allows businesses to sell drinkable and edible products with no more than 50 milligrams of THC per package and five milligrams of THC per serving. Adults 21 and older can buy these products.
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