An adult-use cannabis legalization bill has, for the first time, passed a legislative committee in Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports. The measure passed the House Commerce Committee on a 10-7 party-line vote with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed.
House Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party Majority Leader Ryan Winkler has signaled strong support for the reforms but the bill faces long odds in the Republican-led Senate. The chamber’s Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said in an interview last month that legalization is “not right for the state.” Gov. Tim Walz (DFL) has said he would sign a cannabis legalization bill were it to reach his desk.
“It’s coming. It’s time to get it right. We have an opportunity to go from an illegal, criminal-justice approach that hurts a lot of people and move to a system where we can actually address the real concerns, create real opportunity and right some past wrongs.” – Winkler to the Star Tribune
The measure includes expungement of low-level cannabis crimes that would be legal under the reforms. In Minnesota, Black people are 5.4 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than their White counterparts.
The measure has been discussed at 15 town hall meetings throughout the state and has been scrutinized for 18 months by criminal justice groups, businesses, and other stakeholders, the report says. Opponents argue that legalization would lead to increased traffic accidents, substance abuse, and workplace issues. Proponents are pointing to the potential revenues as the state faces a budget hole brought, in part, by the coronavirus pandemic.
A 2019 Marijuana Policy Group report suggested Minnesota could see $300 million annually from cannabis derived revenues on sales of $1.12 billion, according to MPR. The report also suggested the industry would create 20,000 jobs in the state.
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