Lawmakers introduced an adult-use marijuana legalization bill in Minnesota, where newly empowered Democrats say the friendlier political landscape bodes well for the measure’s passage.
After the swearing-in of the new state Legislature on Tuesday, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) controls both the state Senate and House for the first time in eight years.
Legalization also has the support of Democratic Gov. Tim Walz.
Medical cannabis has been legal in Minnesota since 2014, although it’s available only under some of the heaviest restrictions in the United States.
There were only 30,395 registered MMJ patients in Minnesota as of early 2022, but sales were expected to exceed no more than $90 million last year, according to the 2022 MJBiz Factbook.
As for recreational cannabis, partisan squabbling has stymied all progress – a situation mirroring the deadlock seen in other states where there is no voter-initiated referendum process.
Previous legalization efforts in Minnesota have passed the state House but were blocked in the then-Republican-controlled state Senate.
With a six-seat DFL majority in the House and a one-seat majority in the Senate, state lawmakers say legalization has a much better shot this year.
“I believe 2023 will be the year we legalize adult-use cannabis,” Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL, the House bill sponsor, told Minneapolis TV station WCCO.
“Cannabis should not be illegal in Minnesota. Our current laws are doing more harm than good.”
If passed, the bill would legalize possession, use and sale of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. It would also expunge certain low-level marijuana convictions.
The bill would also regulate hemp-derived THC products, such as those containing the controversial cannabinoid delta-8 THC as well as hemp-derived delta-9 THC, the main psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis.