Potential cannabis legalization concerns Minnesota law enforcement

As recreational cannabis bills progress through the Minnesota Legislature, members of law enforcement continue to voice their concerns.

File photo

GRAND FORKS — As recreational cannabis bills progress through the Minnesota Legislature, members of law enforcement continue to voice their concerns.

James Tadman (courtesy photo)
James Tadman (courtesy photo)

Polk County Sheriff Jim Tadman recently shared a statement on the agency’s Facebook page expressing unease that lawmakers may not address potential public safety issues before legalizing cannabis.

“Before making this decision, it’s important that our lawmakers address Minnesotans’ concerns about the real harms of cannabis and develop a plan to help law enforcement keep our state safe,” he wrote.

House File 100 and Senate File 73 propose the legalization of recreational cannabis for those 21 and older. The bills propose legalizing possession of up to 2 ounces of cannabis flower in a public space, 5 pounds or less in a home and 8 grams or less of cannabis concentrate.

Cannabis use would be permitted in private residences and properties, as well as establishments licensed for on-site consumption.


Cannabis use would remain prohibited for those in a vehicle.

“In states with legalized cannabis, the number of traffic deaths involving drivers who test positive for cannabis has increased substantially,” Tadman wrote.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, though, it is difficult to determine the role of cannabis use in crashes.

“Importantly, the drug may be detected in body fluids for days or even weeks after experiencing intoxication,” the organization wrote in a 2020 report.

Additionally, the National Institute on Drug Abuse says driving ability may be affected differently based on how often the driver uses cannabis. The organization’s research has shown that people often use cannabis in conjunction with alcohol, which appears to create a greater risk for collisions than solely cannabis use.

However, there is no on-site test for cannabis intoxication, such as the breathalyzer test for alcohol intoxication. As a result, it can be difficult for law enforcement to definitively decide whether a driver is under the influence of cannabis.

“We also lack a standard to determine if a driver is unfit to be behind the wheel, such as the .08 BAC standard used for alcohol intoxication,” Tadman wrote.

According to Tadman, though the current bills include plans to develop a test, “it won’t be ready until long after commercial cannabis becomes available on the market.”


Polk County Chief Deputy Mike Norland shares Tadman’s concerns.

“Why can't we wait until we have something like that, prior to going forward?” Norland said.

If recreational cannabis is legalized, it will remain prohibited in establishments such as correctional facilities and schools.

Thief River Falls Chief of Police Marissa Adam said she’s worried about kids coming into contact with edibles because they look like candy.

“When the gummies came out, they looked like Starbursts,” Adam said. “I get concerned for our kids, and them using it and potentially getting hurt or sick.”

Within both legalization bills, there are certain guidelines for how edibles are packaged. The packaging would not be permitted to resemble any existing product that doesn’t contain cannabinoids, or be designed to appeal to those under 21. Additionally, advertisements would be prohibited from including any images or phrases designed to appeal to anyone under 21.

Roseau County Sheriff Steve Gust said he doesn’t think cannabis should be legalized at all. He believes cannabis use will create social service issues, as people using it will struggle to take care of their children.

“The state may look at it as a dollar figure, but in all reality, social services and law enforcement will deal with it for a longer duration,” Gust said.


Minnesota residents would be permitted to grow up to eight cannabis plants in their residence, with no more than four mature plants at one time. Selling cannabis products, though, would only be permitted for those who obtain a license to do so.

Adam said she’s “kind of on the fence” about cannabis legalization, because it can be helpful for those who suffer with chronic pain.

“But I think that's where the medical marijuana should come in,” Adam said.

As of 2023, 20 states have legalized recreational cannabis use, according to the Council of State Governments.

“I'm surprised that Minnesota hasn't legalized it yet, just because so many other states have,” Adam said. “I've always said it's just a matter of time.”

Sav Kelly joined the Grand Forks Herald in August 2022.

Kelly covers public safety, including local crime and the courts system.

Readers can reach Kelly at (701) 780-1102 or
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