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Could Minnesota be next in line for legal marijuana?

Michigan voted for it, North Dakota against it, could Minnesota be asked next?

While it wasn't one of the main headlines to come out of the elections, Tuesday's mid-terms were a good one for marijuana legalization in Minnesota.

You only need to look at the results from this week's vote to see that there is real interest in Minnesota following the example of Michigan, which became the first Midwest state to legalize recreational pot on Tuesday.

In the state auditor race, Legalize Marijuana Now candidate Mike Ford got 5.28 percent of the vote, with just under 134,000 Minnesotans casting a ballot in his favor.

Meanwhile, in the Attorney General race, Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis candidate Noah Johnson's 145,761 votes got him 5.71 percent of the total ballots cast.

Why is this significant? Well, 5 percent is the threshold required to gain major party status in Minnesota.

As MPR explains, both pot parties as of January will get automatic access to the ballot, while their candidates can gain access to state subsidies. It also opens up the door to take part in public debates with DFL and GOP candidates.

This increased exposure bodes well for the growing movement within Minnesota for the legalization and regulation of recreational marijuana, as do some of the other choices Minnesotans made on Tuesday.

Governor-elect Tim Walz is on the record as saying he backs legalization, calling for recreational pot to be regulated and taxed, and the records of those convicted of marijuana-related crimes to be expunged.

And while Keith Ellison's journey to the Attorney General's office was controversy-filled, he too has stated he backs the drug's legalization.

Minnesota approved the use of marijuana for certain health conditions during the 2014 legislative session.

But anyone hoping for a quick turnaround for recreational marijuana legalization might be disappointed, according to University of Minnesota associate professor of political science Kathryn Pearson.

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Speaking on the Dialogue Minnesota podcast on Thursday, she said much will depend on how it's prioritized in the Minnesota legislature.

"I think it depends how much pressure is put on the legislature and I think it depends how much legislative leadership there is on this issue," she said.

"I don't think Governor Walz is going to prioritize this issue, but if a supportive legislature brings this issue to him, it sounds like he would be very open to moving forward – at least in a dialogue – to see what could be done on this." 

Let's not forget that Minnesota now has two split chambers, with the GOP controlling the Senate and the DFL the House.

Nonetheless, there appears to be appetite for change among Minnesotans. A KSTP/SurveyUSA of 1,000 Minnesotans between Oct. 29 and 31 found that 56 percent were in support of legalization.

Just 32 percent said they were against, with 12 percent undecided.

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