A bill has been passed in the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee of Minnesota that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
Legalization and Regulation
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, is the sponsor of HF600, the bill that will not only legalize marijuna but have it regulated. The bill passed (as amended), with a vote of 10-7, and its companion bill SF757 is awaiting action by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee. That bill was sponsored by Senator Melisa Frazen, a promoter of activism in the field of marijuana.
Now, the prospects of this House proposal being passed in the Senate is more than unlikely. This is due to Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka who is widely opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana. Gazelka is open to having conversations about reforming drug sentencing and discussing the additional uses for medicinal cannabis but nothing more. “My main concerns are the unintended consequences of recreational pot, similar to the concerts we all have about tobacco, drinking, or prescription drug abuse. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences.” he said.
Winkler went on about to implore why this bill is necessary nonetheless, “From a health perspective, from a racial equity perspective, from a criminal justice reform perspective, from just being able to do a better job of regulating a product that can be used responsibly, it’s time for Minnesota to change it’s cannabis laws.” If passed, it would create a regulatory framework around recreational marijuana, expunge the records of those who have received petty marijuana charges, and put around $15 million into the Cannabis Management Board.
Advisory Council and Marijuana Management Board
This bill would create a 26-member active council that would review developments in information over cannabis, review national cannabis policy, and examine the effectiveness of state cannabis policy. All members would have to be appointed by the governor. This board would have the ability to oversee and regulate the production, sale, and transportation of marijuana products. They have already established certain rules by which to abide and will likely continue to promulgate additional rules in the coming weeks.
The bill has allotted rules over recreational cannabis that are not too dissimilar from other states where recreational marijuana is available. For example, if passed, anyone 21 and over could: use marijuana in private areas, cultivate up to eight marijuana plants, and possess 1.5 ounces of cannabis in public places. Wrinkler went on to say how “(the system in place currently) doesn’t work and creates significant harms.” One of the main harms cited by Wrinkler was the potential for unsafe and untested products to be consumed on the black market.
The benefits of passing this legislation certainly would outweigh the costs of doing so, and Wrinkler is continuing efforts to get other like-minded representatives to understand this position. There is evidence of a growing coalition among Minnesota Democrats as evidenced on the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party’s website, where they’ve outlined other benefits for legalizing marijuana and how it would: establish a regulated market, allow for law enforcement to focus on more serious issues, increase access to medical marijauana for veterans who cannot legally receive it from the VA.
With the initial goal being to eradicate the state’s illegal marijuana market, Wrinkler said “it is widely available for people from youth to senior citizens” emphasizing the failure of the criminal justice system at keeping cannabis out of the hands of the general public. After decades of failed enforcement of drug prohibition, it seems like Vermont lawmakers should consider furthering policies that would prioritize public health and safety.
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