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Our view: Go ahead, Minnesota, and do the inevitable: Legalize recreational marijuana

The proposal is to legalize it for people 21 and older, while expunging minor marijuana-related convictions.

Herald pull quote, 4/26/23
Herald graphic

It seems each time people are asked, the idea of recreational marijuana is a bit more palatable.

Consider its plight in North Dakota. In 2018, voters blocked legalization of recreational marijuana 59% to 41%. In May of 2019, Gov. Doug Burgum signed a bill that eliminated the threat of jail time for adults older than 21 who are caught in possession of up to a half-ounce of cannabis. And in 2022, the measure again went before the people, this time falling 55% to 45%.

In Minnesota, debate is now underway in the Legislature that could lead to legalization of recreational marijuana. The proposal is to legalize it for people 21 and older, while expunging minor marijuana-related convictions.

HF 100 also seeks to set aside $73 million in the coming biennium to establish structures to regulate and manage cannabis sales, fund prevention and addiction recovery programs and provide grants to law enforcement and courts, according to a report posted on the Minnesota House of Representatives website.

The report continued: “Because revenue from licensing fees and a cannabis sales tax of 8% on top of existing sales taxes would begin to come into the state’s coffers in 2026, no money would be appropriated beginning in fiscal year 2026.”

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HF 100 moved out of committee and this week is on the House floor.

Just like in North Dakota, it appears that with each year, the idea of recreational marijuana in Minnesota becomes more acceptable. In 2014, the state legalized medical marijuana; in 2022, lawmakers legalized recreational low-level, hemp-based cannabis edibles.

In the past, Gov. Tim Walz has said legalizing recreational marijuana will result in new tax revenue and could reduce court and jail gridlock. Last week, he said – via social media – that “Minnesotans are ready to legalize adult-use cannabis and expunge cannabis convictions in Minnesota. I’m ready to sign it into law.”

Some are still against it. Among them are Polk County Sheriff Jim Tadman, who wrote in a social media post that “in states with legalized cannabis, the number of traffic deaths involving drivers who test positive for cannabis has increased substantially.” Also, he wrote, “we 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.”

Among other concerns of law enforcement agencies: The edibles could possibly be consumed by kids who think they’re candy, and the legalization of cannabis could create social service issues.

Without doubt, legalizing marijuana could result in new concerns for police. But we’re also convinced that with each new page of the calendar comes an increased interest in finally legalizing what so many already are consuming.

We’re convinced it’s an inevitable outcome.

Meanwhile, proponents believe legalization will:

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  • Lower street crime and take business away from drug dealers.
  • Actually make marijuana products safer, via standardization, testing and packaging.
  • And add to the economy by bringing a taxable product to the market. 

More than 20 states have legalized recreational marijuana. Canada has legalized it too.
As we wrote prior to the 2022 vote in North Dakota, “the nation has bigger concerns than worrying about marijuana use. Overdose deaths — mostly from opioids — numbered more than 150 last year in North Dakota. Meth continues to make its way into the state. Let’s focus on those crimes, and let marijuana users consume that product in peace — albeit a peace that is regulated, taxed and well planned.”

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