Minnesota legal marijuana bill headed for House vote for first time ever

The bill passed the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday.
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Marijuana, cannabis

A bill that would legalize marijuana for recreational use in Minnesota is headed to the House floor for the first time.

Spearheaded by House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, marijuana legalization has made its way through various legislative committees in past years, but it has yet to advance to a vote in the full chamber.

The bill passed the House Ways and Means Committee Friday – the 12th House committee it has passed during this session.

It would allow adults age 21 and older to buy and possess marijuana in Minnesota. Adults would be allowed to possess up to two ounces of marijuana in public and ten pounds in their homes under the bill.

The bill ultimately passed the committee 16-10. While the legislation is likely to pass the Democrat-controlled House, it faces further challenges in the Senate. Top GOP leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, have opposed the legislation in years past.

The legislation passed by the House would also expunge most marijuana-related convictions and fund public health messaging surrounding youth usage.

In the committee, Winkler emphasized the disproportionate impact marijuana enforcement policy has on communities of color.

“This is an important bill. It helps to correct wrongs that have been done for too long in Minnesota to communities who have been overpoliced and targeted for marijuana enforcement,” Winkler said.

Winkler noted the bill has seen more bipartisan support than in previous years, with several Republicans voting for the bill in committees this session.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, highlighted an amendment approved in the Taxes Committee last week that would require extra revenue generated by legal marijuana to go toward tax relief.

“The adoption of this amendment is a gamechanger,” Garofalo said in a statement.

“The Democrat majority accepting this amendment means that if signed into law, this bill will result in lowering taxes Minnesotans are FORCED to pay, financed with the revenue generated from taxes that people are CHOOSING to pay.”

Garofalo voted for the bill in Friday’s committee, though he noted he is still unsure what his vote will be on the House floor. He is still open to further discussions, he said.

Republicans did raise concerns about the bill’s conflict with federal law, which classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug.

Rep. Jerry Hertaus, R-Greenfield, offered an amendment that would require disclosure to those buying marijuana in Minnesota about the drug’s federal classification and ramifications for bringing it across state lines.

“I think we have a duty to inform those potential users that use of it is in conflict with federal law, and that it could result in criminal penalties, fines or even imprisonment,” Hertaus said in committee.

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