MN lawmakers to introduce bill to legalize marijuana

Democrats plan to introduce the bill on Monday, while it's expected to be opposed by many Republicans.
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Marijuana, cannabis

Democratic lawmakers on Monday plan to introduce legislation to legalize the adult use of marijuana in Minnesota. 

House Majority Leader Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, and other DFLers plan to introduce a bill that would legalize cannabis, which they say will address criminal justice inequities and allow police to focus on more serious crimes. 

Related: Minnesota is 8th worst state for racial disparities in marijuana arrests, ACLU says

They'll hold a news conference on the proposed legislation at 1 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 1. You'll be able to watch it live on Facebook here

Winkler in May 2020, during the last legislative session, introduced a bill that would legalize marijuana. That bill laid out provisions for cannabis legalization in the state, including regulations for retailers, consumers, packaging and labeling. Under the bill, an adult would be permitted to possess 1.5 ounces of cannabis in public and up to 10 pounds at a private residence.

At least 15 states – even South Dakota – and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana, while dozens more, including Minnesota, have legalized it for medical purposes. 

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, DFL-Minnesota, in August 2020 introduced a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana on the federal level. A version of the bill passed the DFL-controlled U.S. House of Representatives in December

The push to legalize weed in Minnesota has been gaining momentum in recent months among Democrats who control the state House, and is supported by House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park.

“Minnesota’s current cannabis laws are doing more harm than good,” Hortman told The Center Square in a statement. “By creating a regulatory framework we can address the harms caused by cannabis and establish a more sensible set of laws to improve our health care & criminal justice systems and ensure better outcomes for communities."

The measure, though, is expected to face some opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Top GOP lawmakers, including Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, have opposed legalization efforts after several efforts in recent years. In the 2019 legislative session, cannabis legalization failed in a Republican-controlled Senate committee

The Minnesota GOP benefited in the November elections from the fact that numerous candidates ran for marijuana legalization parties, in some cases with the party's encouragement. This helped the GOP win a handful of swing districts in House and Senate races.

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