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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL)

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DFL lawmakers introduce adult-use cannabis legislation

Monday, February 1, 2021

Today, Majority Leader Ryan Winkler and DFL lawmakers introduced adult-use cannabis legislation that will address criminal justice inequities created by our current system and allow law enforcement to focus on more serious issues.

The adult-use cannabis bill is based on conversations with Minnesotans during the statewide “Be Heard on Cannabis” tour, which hosted town hall meetings in 15 communities spanning urban, suburban, and rural parts of the state; met with more than 30 organizations and associations; consulted with the Governor, Lt. Governor, and 13 state agencies; held 250 meetings with individuals and groups; and inspired legislators to work hundreds of hours to produce the bill. 

“The failed criminalization of cannabis has resulted in a legacy of racial injustice that can no longer go unaddressed,” said Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, the bill’s chief author. “Adults deserve the freedom to decide whether to use cannabis, and our state government should play an important role in addressing legitimate concerns around youth access, public health, and road safety. Veterans and Minnesotans with serious illnesses like PTSD deserve better access to our medical program, which is not working well for most people. It’s time to legalize, expunge, and regulate.”

The adult-use cannabis bill would create a responsible regulatory structure focused on developing micro-businesses and a craft market; expunge most cannabis convictions; fund public health awareness, youth access prevention, and substance abuse treatment; provide grants, loans, technical assistance, and training for small businesses; require testing and labeling of products; restrict packaging based on dosage size; and allow limited home grow abilities.

"It's clear that our current cannabis laws aren't working for Minnesota," said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. "Smart, sensible legislation can address racial inequities in our criminal justice system, tackle the harms caused by cannabis, and ensure better outcomes for communities."

Black and white Minnesotans consume cannabis at very similar rates, yet while Black Minnesotans make up just 5% of the population they represent 30% of cannabis arrests.

“The legalization of adult use-cannabis will result in health, economic, criminal justice, and civil rights benefits for Minnesotans, benefits already experienced by those in other states that have eliminated the criminal prohibition,” said Rep. Rena Moran (DFL – Saint Paul). “Minnesotans, especially those from Black, Indigenous, and communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted will have an opportunity to live better lives and contribute to society by participating in the workforce. People have made their voices clear across the state, and it’s time to end our current harmful policies on cannabis.”

As of Nov. 4, 2020, voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota approved measures to regulate cannabis for adult-use, bringing the total to 15 states and 3 territories. A total of 36 states, District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands have approved comprehensive, publicly available medical marijuana/cannabis programs.

“I remain committed to supporting a path forward for a responsible framework to legalize cannabis in our state. For too long we have turned a blind eye to the effects that prohibition has had on many of our communities of color,” said Senator Franzen. “As more states continue to remove barriers to embark in this industry, Minnesota must not be left behind. We should lead the way toward ensuring public health and safety considerations are at the forefront of any legislation.”

The next steps following the adult-use cannabis bill’s introduction are a series of public hearings that allow Minnesotans to ask questions and provide input.