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Minnesota GOP Leader Says Cannabis Legalization Not ‘Right’ for the State

Minnesota Sen. Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R) said he has no plans to work toward cannabis legalization this year and that such reforms aren’t “right for the state.”

Full story after the jump.

Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R) has no plans to work toward cannabis legalization during this year’s session, telling Center Square that the reforms aren’t “right for the state.”

“Other states that have legalized marijuana are having issues with public safety, and we are concerned that we haven’t fully seen how this works with employment issues, education outcomes, and mental health. I would be open to expanding medical use or hearing criminal justice reforms, but the ideas need to be fully vetted in a public committee process. There is a wide range of opinions I want to hear from before we move forward with changing the laws on marijuana.” – Gazelka in a statement to Center Square

The House is controlled by the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party and chamber Speaker Melissa Hortman said the state’s continued prohibition is “doing more harm than good” and described Republicans as “the biggest obstacle to progress on this issue.”

“By creating a regulatory framework we can address the harms caused by cannabis and establish a more sensible set of laws to improve our health care and criminal justice systems and ensure better outcomes for communities,” she said in a statement to Center Square.

Minnesota is bordered by South Dakota, where voters approved both broad and medical cannabis legalization reforms in the 2020 General Election. That initiative is being challenged in court by two law enforcement officers at the behest of Republican Gov. Kristi Noem.

In 2019, Gov. Tim Walz (DFL) said he had directed relevant state agencies to “put all of the building blocks in place” for legalization that would allow the state to implement the rules and regulations “the minute” the Legislature approved the reforms, according to a Minnesota Public Radio report.

A February 2020 Star Tribune poll found 51% of Minnesotans supported legalization with 37% opposed and 12% unsure. The majority of Republicans polled – 47% to 42% – opposed the reforms, compared to a majority of DFL/Democrats (59%-30%) who supported them. The majority of the state’s independents also supported legalization by a 50% to 37% margin.

A Star Tribune poll from February 2014 found just 30% of Minnesotans supported legalization, with 63% opposed and 7% unsure. At that time, 54% of DFL/Democrats supported legalization – with 38% opposed – along with just 11% of Republicans (86% opposed) and 19% of independents (73% opposed.)

House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler told MinnPost that a legalization bill is being drafted but did not commit to it being voted on in the chamber.

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