Lawmakers are planting the seeds of legal weed in Minnesota — introducing legislation on Monday that would end marijuana prohibition in the state, creating a system of taxation and regulation for adult use.
Senator Melisa Franzen and Representative Mike Feiberg, both of the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, and Senator Scott Jensen, a Republican, sponsored the bill, which would make it legal for adults over 21 to possess, grow and purchase limited quantities of marijuana. The state would license and regulate businesses to cultivate, process, test and sell weed to adults; it would also create and enforce health and safety regulations for testing and labeling, along with restrictions against marketing to teenagers.
Freiberg, in a statement, called Minnesota’s prohibition policy “outdated” and “more of a problem than a solution,” adding, “It is forcing marijuana into a shady underground market, which creates more potential harm for consumers and communities than marijuana itself. Regulating marijuana would make our state safer by removing the criminal element and empowering our state and local governments to start controlling production and sales.”
“Our focus in drafting legislation to end the prohibition of cannabis in Minnesota is to ensure we have a responsible regulatory model for consumer access that still provides for public health, safety and welfare,” he continued. “The time has come for us to have this debate.”
Freiberg tweeted a playful message from a press conference about the bill. “tfw your kids have a snow day and they have to come to your cannabis press conference,” he tweeted, along with a picture of his children sitting near reporters.
The proposed bill would allow Minnesota’s Department of Health to regulate marijuana dispensaries and direct regulators to establish a “seed-to-sale” system (from cultivation to sale). It would also allow local governments to regulate production and sale in their communities, prohibit retailers from marketing toward teens, allow for the expungement of certain marijuana-related crimes from arrest records, reroute $10 million annually toward impoverished communities that have been particularly affected by prohibition and direct millions of dollars each year toward mental health services, efforts to combat impaired driving and teen drug education.
The Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest organization for marijuana policy reform, estimates that regulated sales could result in between $200 million and $300 million in annual tax revenue for Minnesota. Jason Tarasek, the state’s political director for the organization and co-founder of Minnesotans for Responsible Marijuana Regulation, compared current U.S. marijuana regulation to “alcoholic prohibition in the 1920s,” arguing that Minnesota’s marijuana laws “[do] not work.”
“By legalizing marijuana and carefully regulating its sale, we can keep it out of the hands of teens without needlessly arresting responsible adult consumers,” he said. “This would allow law enforcement to spend more time addressing serious crimes, while also creating a significant new revenue stream for our state.”
As of this writing, 10 U.S. states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington) and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana, while commercial sale is legal in all but Vermont and D.C. Medial marijuana is legal in 33 states.