House Democrats in Minnesota began a push on Monday to legalize recreational marijuana.
This plan also includes plans to expunge criminal charges to those who have been serving prison sentences for possession or sale of marijuana.
If passed, Minnesota would join the 15 states that have already legalized the recreational use of cannabis. This would include their neighbor South Dakota, where the recreational use of cannabis will go into effect later this year.
The framing of this legislation by state Democrats is to begin breaking down systemic racism within the state, and to provide better opportunities for racial and ethnic minorities within Minnesota.
“Nowhere is the harm of the failed criminal prohibition felt more than for Black, Indigenous and people of color, which continue to experience outrageous disparities regarding enforcement of our current marijuana laws” says Representative Rena Moran. “Black Minnesotans are over five times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than those who are white. This is one of the worst disparities in the nation, and true even though both groups use it at similar rates”
Whether this proposal passes through Minnesota’s GOP-controlled senate remains to be seen, however; majority leader Paul Gazelka has expressed interest against marijuana legalization, and expressed interest in seeing any potential disadvantageous impacts of cannabis legalization in other states. “We are focused on the Minnesota Priorities that balance the budget without raising taxes, safely reopen schools and businesses to recover our economy, and support families…I would not consider legalizing recreational marijuana as a Minnesota priority” he said in a statement.
Despite opposition from the Republicans, Minnesota Democrats hope to find a suitable compromise to advance the legalization of cannabis in the state. So far, one Republican lawmaker has openly pledged support for cannabis legalization in Minnesota.
Unless more GOP lawmakers break from their Majority leader’s stance, Minnesota’s recreational cannabis legalization proposal may likely be halted in the state’s GOP-controlled Senate.