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Minnesota Governor Pushes for Cannabis Legalization

January 27, 2021

Governor Tim Walz (D) is pushing for the Minnesota legislature to take a hard look into legalizing adult-use recreational cannabis. The governor joins a stampede of states looking to legalize, including Connecticut, New Mexico, Kentucky, and neighboring Iowa, to name a few. 

The push to legalize cannabis across the country comes from two primary motives: boosting the economy to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and promotion of social justice. Minnesota is the latest state to join the pack, with Gov. Walz imploring lawmakers to “take a look at recreational cannabis” during a briefing focused on his budget proposal for the 2022-23 biennium.

House Majority Leader Promises Bill 

While the Governor did not explicitly include a request to legalize marijuana through his budget, Walz has been directing state agencies to prepare for implementation of reform since 2019. Earlier this month, the House Majority leader promised that he would again seek to introduce a bill to legalize marijuana in the upcoming session. 

House Speaker Melissa Hortman (D) also chimed in on the legalization push, saying that “Minnesota’s current cannabis laws are doing more harm than good.” She went to say that building a regulatory framework would help the state to address problems caused by cannabis prohibition, as well as establish a more sensible set of laws to improve systems such as health care and criminal justice in the state. 

Senate Republicans Opposed to Minnesota Cannabis Legalization 

Hortman claimed that Senate Republicans are currently the biggest obstacle to making progress on cannabis legalization. Democrats had hoped that they could take control of the Senate in the 2020 election, but that didn’t come to fruition. Democrats partially attribute this failure to marijuana-focused parties taking a large chunk of the vote from Democrats, which inadvertently could now hurt chances of reform. 

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R) said that he is open to legalizing marijuana for medical-use and hearing about criminal justice reforms, but doesn’t “believe full legalized marijuana is right for the state.” 

Contributed by Jack Berning