A bill to legalize recreational marijuana has now cleared both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature.
The Minnesota Senate passed the bill in a 34-33 party-line vote Friday afternoon.
The bill passed the House Tuesday with the support of two Republicans. One Democrat voted against it. The differences between the two versions of the bill will need to be sorted out before it is sent to Gov. Tim Walz’s desk. Walz has promised to sign the legislation.
“We recognize the growing interest in legalizing cannabis in Minnesota,” Sen. Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, said in a statement.
“However, voting for this bill in its current form will make our roads less safe. It will put more children at risk for accidental overdose. It will tell teenagers that this drug is safer than alcohol or tobacco when that is simply not true. Every negative consequence will be on the conscience of those voting yes today,” he added.
The bill restricts marijuana sales to adults who are 21 or older. Psychiatrists with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the Minnesota Society of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry called for raising the legal age to 25, citing the increased risk of mental health issues among young people who use cannabis.
“I have long fought to reduce tobacco use, particularly among children. It’s a legal and unsafe drug that causes deadly health issues. Children were targeted by tobacco companies to hook them young,” said Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester. “This bill doesn’t do nearly enough to make sure they aren’t targeted by those selling marijuana.”
Republicans also took issue with the lack of a fiscal analysis to assess the impact of legalization on cities. They unsuccessfully sought to amend the bill to allow cities to ban the sale or manufacturing of marijuana.
“We think local control is best, but this bill is limiting their ability to do what is best for their communities,” Nelson added. “They will be left dealing with higher costs, more public safety calls, and not enough resources to handle the community safety concerns they already are struggling with.”
Sen. Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville, said the prohibition on cannabis has “done immeasurable harm to our people, disproportionately to people of color.”
“It’s unacceptable for the state to do that kind of harm, devastate communities, and walk away as though it’s the price of doing business,” said Port, the author of the Senate bill. “We must rectify this situation.”
The legislation will take effect Aug. 1.