St. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) — The Minnesota legislature got down the road to legalizing recreational marijuana for adults Wednesday when a legislative committee held the first session of the year on a bill that supporters say is designed to avoid pitfalls plaguing states that already have legalization. on him.
The bill is an updated version of one that passed the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2021 with some bipartisan support but died in the state Senate, which was then held by Republicans. Now that both chambers have Democratic majorities, sponsors say they’re confident they can put the bill on the desk of Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, who Undertaking to sign it.
The House Commerce Committee approved the bill through a voice vote and sent it to the next, expected to be about a dozen committees in the chamber, that will scrutinize the bill. She faces a long journey in the Senate, too.
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“Minnesotaans are ready. Cannabis should not be illegal in Minnesota,” said lead author, Democratic Rep. Zack Stephenson, of Conn Rapids, who chairs the committee. Minnesotans deserve the freedom and respect to make responsible decisions about cannabis themselves, our current laws do more harm than good. more than it pays off.”
Stevenson described his bill as a “Minnesota-specific model” that draws lessons from the mixed experiences of other states that have tried to replace the illegal market for cannabis and related products. He said it includes a “strong expungement program” so that people convicted of non-violent marijuana offenses, disproportionately colored people, They can move on with their lives.
The plan’s chief architect is former House Democratic Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, who shepherded it through three years of development before the House passed it in 2021. Now out of office, he’s the volunteer chair of the MN Is Ready Action campaign, which hopes to get him across the finish line.
“The bill’s larger policy goal is to transform an illegal market into a legal, regulated market,” Winkler said in a briefing to reporters Tuesday. “The state is not looking to make huge amounts of money out of this cannabis market.”
Winkler said backers have learned from the problems experienced in other states, such as California and Oregon, where high taxes and strict regulations have complicated efforts. Develop functional legal markets for hemp and Illegal sales continue Cheaper illegal produce, while it is more difficult for small farmers to turn a profit.
Retail marijuana sales will only be subject to an 8% tax, in addition to the current Minnesota sales tax, which is around 7% depending on the community. The idea, he said, is to only cover the costs of regulating cannabis, not to generate revenue for other government programs.
“It’s very easy, as we’ve seen in other states, for a large illegal market to continue if the taxes are too high or the regulations are too impractical,” Winkler said. Like California where they are basically entrenched in the illegal mass markets.”
Critics of the plan testified that it would lead to more drug use in Minnesota with serious social and public safety consequences. County and city representatives urged the commission to ensure that communities have the authority to regulate cannabis sales, as they do for alcohol and tobacco.
Ryan Hamilton, a lobbyist for the Minnesota Catholic Conference, testified that for every person harmed by the War on Drugs who receives compensation from the survey, “countless children, adolescents, and adults at risk” would be harmed by the normalization of drug use.
“No amount of regulation can limit the harm that high-potency recreational marijuana will do to Minnesota families and our quality of life,” Hamilton said.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, of East Grand Forks, urges Democrats not to rush the process.
“We need to hear from law enforcement, employers, addiction counselors, educators and others who have concerns about legalizing marijuana,” Johnson said in a statement last week. We know that even small changes in this area of law can lead to huge changes in the marketplace and in people’s practices. We do not take lightly the risks that marijuana poses to young people, minorities, and the vulnerable.”
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