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Marijuana legalization bills officially proposed in Minnesota

Companion bills have been put forward in the House and the Senate.

It looks like Minnesota's lawmakers will consider whether to legalize the growth, use and sale of marijuana this year.

Bills that would see Minnesota follow the likes of Colorado, Oregon and California in legalizing pot have been proposed in both the House and the Senate on Monday.

The House bill, proposed by Rep. Mike Freiberg (D-Golden Valley), is very knowingly named House File 420. 

The bills would lead to the decriminalization and commercial regulation of marijuana in the state, with both Sen. Melisa Franzen (who proposed the Senate bill 619), and Rep. Freiberg saying it needs to be approach "with smart, public health-focused policy."

You can have a look at the House bill here, but among other things it would allow people aged 21 and over to "cultivate, consume, use, and possess cannabis, cannabis products, and cannabis accessories" while also expunging past non-violent cannabis-related offenses.

It establishes a framework for regulating the commercial sale of cannabis, which would be accompanied with public warnings about consumption, akin to warnings about smoking and excessive alcohol use we already see today.

Commercial sales would be allowed to start in 2022, while smaller-level personal possession would be legal from next year. It also contains language about funding studies into the mental health impacts of cannabis use, as well as further studies into dosage levels for safe driving.

It's one of three marijuana legalization bills submitted so far this year, the Pioneer Press reports. The other two, also proposed by DFLers, would involve putting a marijuana legalization question on the ballot in 2020.

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While new Gov. Tim Walz has expressed willingness to approve the decriminalization of marijuana in Minnesota, there is opposition among Republicans, who currently control the Senate.

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka expressed his opposition to the bills, claiming marijuana has been linked to "mental health problems, driving accidents, and impaired teen brain development."

He said he doesn't think it has a chance of passing the Senate this year. The GOP currently has a majority of 2 in the Senate.

However, among those who spoke out in favor of the bill was Republican Senator Scott Jensen (R–Chaska), a medical doctor who thinks the drug should be legalized so it can be accessed for medical reasons by those who don't currently qualify for it under the state's medical marijuana program.

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