Last year, the cannabis movement had an incredibly strong showing in the US election, as eight out of nine states voted to legalize medical or recreational programs. That momentum has carried over into 2017, leading lawmakers in New York, Vermont, and even Texas to push legalization measures.
Now, Democratic lawmakers in Minnesota are introducing two separate bills to greenlight the use and sale of recreational cannabis throughout the state. While both measures promote similar levels of legalization, they differ in what the generated tax revenue would go towards.
The bill, submitted by Rep. Jon Applebaum of Minnetonka would create a system similar to Colorado. Recreational cannabis would be regulated like alcohol, and the tax revenue would go to public school funding. Applebaum envisions a system that would create local jobs in agriculture and small business, as well as lower taxes for families.
Rep. Applebaum’s bill would allow people 21 years or over to use, possess, and purchase up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use. It would also set up a framework for cultivation and retail starting in 2019. State residents would also be allowed to grow a maximum of six total cannabis plants at home, only three of which can be mature.
“The world is changing, and Minnesotans are rightfully developing different attitudes on marijuana,” Rep. Applebaum said. “Other states’ successes, along with the failed prohibition attempts of others, have validated the need for a statewide conversation on legalizing the personal, recreational use of marijuana."
The other measure, submitted by Rep. Tina Liebling of Rochester would set the stage for voters to decide on recreational legalization in 2018. Instead of funding public education, her proposal would instead put the resulting tax revenue towards chemical dependency treatment and mental health education. The bill aims to create a competitive market for small producers and sellers, and would also allow home grows for personal use.
Unfortunately, in a Republican-controlled Legislature, both bills are unlikely to pass. Even Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has stated that he’s opposed to Applebaum’s bill. Nonetheless, the effort shows that perception is starting to change all across America.
Minnesota legalized medical marijuana back in 2015, and added PTSD and chronic pain as qualifying conditions for treatment the following year. Applebaum and Liebling seem to see this steady progression as an opportunity to bring the recreational cannabis conversation to be the table for Minnesota.