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Two plans for legalizing pot in MN, and how they compare

One's a statutory change, the other, a constitutional amendment.
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Democrats now have two plans to legalize weed in Minnesota.

Earlier this week, Deputy Minority Leader Rep. Jon Applebaum proposed a bill that would make marijuana legal in the state.

If passed, it would allow the state to regulate the drug similar to how it does alcohol – so only people who are 21 or older could buy, have and use up to 1 ounce of marijuana. The bill would also allow Minnesotans to grow up to six marijuana plants at a time, as long as three or fewer are mature. Using the drug in public or while driving would be illegal.

The day after Applebaum's bill was announced, another Democrat – Rep. Jason Metsa – introduced a slightly different option for legalizing pot. Like Applebaum's bill, it would allow the personal use, possession and purchase of marijuana for Minnesotans age 21 and older.

But it would give voters a chance to weigh in on the issue.

Metsa's proposal calls for adding an amendment to the state Constitution. If passed, Minnesotans would vote on whether or not to legalize marijuana in the 2018 general election.

Applebaum and Metsa are listed as authors on both bills, and the two plans are very similar in how legal weed would be regulated. But Metsa says his bill is about "giving citizens a voice" on a policy he believes many people would like to see progress more quickly.

“Most states which have legalized this product have done so through voter approved referenda, and I think this is the best course of action with many Minnesotans so passionate about this,” he said in a news release. “With attitudes of Minnesotans changing so rapidly, it’s only right that they be given a voice in this discussion to decide which approach our state should take.”

Will it pass?

Well, like we pointed out with the first proposal – there's a lot of barriers to legalizing pot in our state.

Lawmakers had a tough time legalizing even medical marijuana in Minnesota back in 2014, and the state’s current medical marijuana law is one of the strictest ones out there (it doesn’t even allow approved patients to smoke the drug).

Just for starters, the bill would have to pass the Republican-controlled House and Senate, before landing on Gov. Mark Dayton's desk.

The Pioneer Press says Dayton is interested in finding out if Minnesotans support legalization, saying “I do like the idea of asking the people of Minnesota… if there’s really an overwhelming popular will for that, that would be something to consider."

At the same time, he's made statements indicating he's not really on board with recreational marijuana.

Plus, marijuana – even medical cannabis – is still illegal under federal law, and it’s likely that’ll stay that way under the Trump administration. President Donald Trump has said he’ll be “ruthless” in the war on drugs, the Washington Post reports, and Sen. Jeff Sessions – the nominee for attorney general – has been outspoken against legalizing marijuana, Fortune said.

But even if this bill doesn't get very far, Metza says it's getting the ball rolling.

“This is a conversation starter,” he said. “We are all well aware that our colleagues who are chairs that would give these bills hearings are not interested in having this conversation right now. But you have to have a starting point.”

Marijuana is currently legal for recreational use (or will be soon) in seven states: Alaska, Colorado, California, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, NORML’s website shows.

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