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Minnesota Governor To Include Marijuana Legalization In Budget

Top lawmakers believe the state’s top legislative executive is eager to make a statement about the future of legal cannabis in the “Land of Lakes.”

Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives, Melissa Hortman (D), recently shared with the MinnPost her belief that the governor’s upcoming budget request will include the galvanizing issue of marijuana legalization. With the House already passing adult-use cannabis legislation in a past session, she is confident there is sufficient support to enact any bill that comes up for a vote. However, she also adds the important caveat that any marijuana reform “will take a long time” to move through the legislature.”


She explains her position by saying, “I don’t know about the Minnesota Senate. I would be surprised if they didn’t also have the votes. I know that the governor is on board. I would expect it will be in the governor’s budget, which is a massive step forward because it’s his agencies that need to implement the law.”


"I don’t know about the Minnesota Senate. I would be surprised if they didn’t also have the votes. I know that the governor is on board. I would expect it will be in the governor’s budget, which is a massive step forward because it’s his agencies that need to implement the law.”

- Melissa Hortman (D), Speaker of the MN House of Representatives


For his part, Governor Tim Walz (D) allocated funding for marijuana legalization in his executive request this past year as well. However, state legislators could not pass meaningful reform changes during the 2022 session. Then election day 2022 happened. With the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) party securing a slim majority in the state Senate to match its continued control of the House as a result of the election, Walz is confident the issue will now have the juice to make it across the legal finish line.


Despite the positive momentum concerning the potential measure, Hortman and Walz differ on the realistic timeline for passing and enacting legal adult-use marijuana. Gov. Walz views the issue as a top priority and wants to see it as “one of the first items” to reach his desk in 2023. He even envisions the legislation being done “by May.”


However, as mentioned above, in Hortman’s estimation, it could and should take a bit longer. In that same interview with the MinnPost, she shares, “This is a very time-consuming bill. This is not like enshrining reproductive freedom into statute. This is not something you can do in three weeks. It will take a long time to get the bill through the House and the Senate and for the governor’s team to all have it in a position where it can be done well.”


"This is a very time-consuming bill. This is not like enshrining reproductive freedom into statute. This is not something you can do in three weeks. It will take a long time to get the bill through the House and the Senate and for the governor’s team to all have it in a position where it can be done well.”

- Melissa Hortman (D), Speaker of the MN House of Representatives


Following the election, leaders within the DFL did discuss the matter of legalization and even agreed to make it a priority issue for the upcoming session. One of those lawmakers leading the charge is State Senator Nick Frentz (D), an assistant leader in the new DFL Senate majority. He has recently gone on the record to say that while he believes legalization “will pass this session,” he also sides with Hortman in expressing that “there’s (still) a question of timing.”

This is not the first time marijuana reform advocates have attempted to pass initiatives for legalization. As recently as last year House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D) authored a bill that made it through an exhaustive 12-committee sojourn before finally making it to the House floor, where members voted to pass it. However, in a familiar refrain, the tenacious and resilient bill stalled out in the GOP-dominated Senate.


Similarly, in 2019, another bipartisan proposal for legalization sponsored by Scott Jensen (R) and Melisa Lopez Franzen (D) also failed to make it all the way to the governor’s desk.


However, supporters and advocates are now armed with considerably more political and popular support for this renewed effort than they possessed during previous attempts. Recent polling in the state shows that more than 60% of Minnesotans support legalizing recreational marijuana. That’s an increase of more than 5% from a similar survey taken in 2019.


In addition to those favorable poll numbers, the state legislature passed, and Governor Walz signed legislation this past July that included provisions enabling state hemp businesses to legally sell hemp-derived THC food and beverage products to the public. Governor Walz also signed a bill last year expanding the state’s medical marijuana program, allowing patients access to smokable products.


All of this incremental work is seen by many as the intelligent way to approach the ultimate goal of full legalization of adult-use marijuana in Minnesota. Unfortunately, in their haste to achieve legal status, some states did not adequately account for the substantial infrastructure required to create and launch a multi-billion dollar, heavily regulated and monitored industry when they hurriedly passed legalization initiatives.


California is a prime example of this “ready, shoot, aim” approach. Now mired in headaches ranging from failing businesses to a massive black market resurgence due to overproduction and crime sprees targeting cash-heavy companies, California is a cautionary tale for would-be entrants into the legal marijuana marketplace.


The enthusiasm on both sides of the political spectrum is an excellent sign for stakeholders and future consumers of Minnesota Marijuana. Moreover, by all measurable gauges, Minnesota is primed to be one of the better-prepared new members of the cannabis club in the United States in the next couple of years. Let’s hope the passion of the politicians and the people continues to strengthen and that when that day of full legalization arrives, it will be a genuine cause for celebration.


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