Ill-tempered end to anti-marijuana press conference at Minnesota capitol

The press conference at the Capitol descended into a shouting match.
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A press conference held by a group against the legalization of recreational marijuana in Minnesota descended into a shouting match when pro-legalization supporters interrupted.

The event was held at the State Capitol on Wednesday by Smart Approaches Marijuana-Minnesota, which says it backs the decriminalization of the drug, but is against the commercialization of cannabis as seen in states like Colorado and Washington.

It invited speakers whose lives have been negatively impacted by the drug, among them Sandy Melville, whose son was killed in 2010 by an impaired driver and who warned that an increase in marijuana use could present further safety risks for Minnesotans.

It was during Melville's speech that pro-legalization supporters began to interrupt, calling into question some of the statistics she was quoting, before applauding when Melville noted that Minnesota's new Governor Tim Walz is pro-legalization.

"If you want to stand up here and talk, I will be respectful of you, please keep your mouth shut," Melville said.

Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie was similarly interrupted as he called for the state to take time before legalizing marijuana, with some in the audience disagreeing when he included marijuana under the collective term "the most powerful narcotics."

The meeting got increasingly heated, with one pro-legalization supporter speaking out against how black Minnesotans are currently handled by law enforcement who smell marijuana on them during traffic stops.

A woman meanwhile spoke out against the depiction of what has happened in other states that have legalized it.

November's elections, which saw the DFL take the Minnesota House and Tim Walz take the governor's office, has given rise to hopes among marijuana supporters that Minnesota will become the next state to legalize the drug.

But at this stage it's not clear what chances such a bill has of making it through the House or the GOP-controlled Senate, with the Pioneer Press reporting that Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka wants more research before any decision is made.

A pro-marijuana group, Minnesota Campaign for Full Legalization, held another news conference following the SAMMN presser to counter some of the claims heard earlier.

At that press conference, the group's executive director, Marcus Harcus, said: "We have to live in fear of being criminalized and potentially losing everything over a healing plant that has never killed a human being in the thousands of years of known human use."

You can watch both press conferences below.

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