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Minnesota Senate shoots down latest marijuana legalization attempt

By Tommy Wiita,


Minnesota lawmakers rejected an effort to bring a marijuana legalization bill to the Senate floor for consideration on Wednesday.

The procedural vote ended with a 31-33 tally, with 41 needed to pass the motion. It failed to move forward by 10 votes.

Out of the 33 votes, 31 were Republican, with three legislators from the party not voting. One vote to strike it down came from DFL Sen. Gregory Clausen and another came from Independent Sen. Thomas Bakk, who has been caucusing with the Republican Party since leaving the DFL.

Last year, a bill to legalize adult-use recreational marijuana passed the Minnesota House of Representatives with a 72-61 vote. The vote marked the first time a legalization bill had reached the state House floor, but the effort's companion bill died in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Wednesday's effort by the Senate DFL would have forced a debate and vote on a legalization bill that has been stalled in committee.

"It's something all Minnesotans are talking about, and they are speaking about it unequivocally — they are demanding we catch up with these other states and demanding we legalize cannabis now," said DFL Sen. Aric Putnam.

Putnam also pointed out that police officers and seniors have expressed their needs for cannabis, further expressing how many people from different backgrounds have showed their support for recreational legalization.

Bring Me The News previously reported how Gov. Tim Walz and other DFL lawmakers took to social media on 4/20 — the unofficial cannabis holiday — to continue calls for decriminalization. However, progress has halted in the Senate.

"Our current cannabis laws do more harm than good," said DFL Sen. Lindsey Port during a press conference Wednesday. "Specifically the low-level cannabis offenses that have led to incredible racial disparities in our state."

The Republican Party of Minnesota benefited in the 2020 elections from marijuana legalization candidates running in closely-contested districts, splitting the vote with DFL candidates.

There have been multiple reports that Republican politicians actively encouraged people to run under marijuana legalization banners in swing districts.

States like Colorado and Washington legalized recreational use of marijuana in 2012 and have since seen unprecedented revenue from it, according to a study from the nonprofit Brookings Institution. The revenue helped aid education and other community needs.

Minnesota legalized marijuana in 2014 for medical use. At the time, however, the state legislation was widely considered the most restrictive of its kind in the United States. Back then, Minnesotans needed to meet nine qualifications to receive cannabis in a liquid, pill or vaporized form.

Last year, regulations were loosened slightly on the industry in the state. In May 2021, the legislature and Walz approved allowing raw/flower cannabis — which includes smoking — for adults 21 and older, along with expanded caregiver provisions. Qualifying conditions have jumped from nine to 17 in about 10 years.

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