Will Minnesota Be the Next State to Legalize Marijuana in 2019?
Marijuana has been a popular topic of conversation and a frequent news item in Minnesota since the start of 2019. In fact, talk about the possibility of Minnesota becoming the next state to legalize marijuana has spread to Forbes, the Boston Globe, and several other national publications. What is the source for all the speculation? Could Minnesota really be the next state to legalize marijuana?
Marijuana’s Current Legal Status in Minnesota
Although ten states and the District of Columbia have fully legalized recreational marijuana, it is still illegal on a federal level. Classified as a Schedule I drug, studies cite marijuana as having no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Other Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.
Minnesota has already legalized medical marijuana, thrusting its stance on marijuana as a drug with medical purpose into outright disagreement with the federal government’s Schedule I classification. Minnesota’s medical marijuana law is unique, however, in that it does not allow the drying or smoking of marijuana; instead, the state only allows pills, liquids, or oils. Is Minnesota heading toward full legalization of recreational marijuana, even though it does not yet allow the full use of medical marijuana?
Minnesota’s Supportive Governor
Governor Tim Walz is one of the first members of Congress to help get a marijuana bill passed through a Congressional committee. He brings his support of marijuana to the governor’s office and has been outspoken in his support for marijuana legalization. In remarks at the beginning of January, Governor Walz mentioned that replacing current policy will have tax benefits, provide jobs, protect children, and allow adults to make their own personal decisions.
The Governor’s statements were a primary reason Forbes and the Boston Globe included Minnesota in their lists of states likely to pass marijuana legislation in 2019. At the time, however, lawmakers admitted that 2019 may be optimistic, calling marijuana legalization more of a three-to-five-year plan. The plan, as it was, involved a Minnesota Constitutional Amendment with efforts beginning in 2020.
New Legislation Introduced in 2019
Then, on January 29th, both the House and the Senate introduced new legislation. Separate from the Amendment, both bills advocate legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and over and allow for the consumption, cultivation, and possession of marijuana for recreational purposes. Writers and proponents of the bill hail from both Republican and Democratic parties, and many have mentioned their constituents requested attention to the issue.
The legislation is not without detractors. House and Senate leaders have questioned the bill’s importance, stating that the legislature should have higher priorities than marijuana legislation. Others have questioned the morality of passing such a bill with the state amid an opioid epidemic. Still, the conversation has officially begun, something the bill’s proponents say is a task essential to getting legalization on the horizon.
What Could This Mean for Minnesota?
If legalization passes at some point in the future, Minnesota will still have several decisions to make regarding marijuana regulation and distribution within the state. Among them will be decisions whether to allow residents to grow their own plants, where to allow dispensaries, and how to deal with impaired drivers. Impaired drivers, in particular, are a focus of those who are critical of the proposal.
How lawmakers plan to deal with those currently incarcerated for marijuana possession or distribution and those who have marijuana crimes on their criminal records is another issue. Some suggest allowing those with misdemeanors to expunge their records, citing success of such measures in other states. However, the process can be lengthy and will certainly lead to the need for thorough examination of each case as it arises.
Will Minnesota legalize marijuana in 2019? Perhaps not – all sources say it is a process that may take longer than a matter of months. However, the state has introduced legislation, and the possibility has become much more real than it was in 2018.