Minnesota Democrats introduced a bill Thursday to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21.
With control of both chambers of the Legislature, and a governor who is ready to sign it into law if passed, they are confident this is the year it will happen.
“Minnesotans are ready, and I believe 2023 is the year we will legalize adult-use cannabis in Minnesota,” said Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, lead author of the bill in the House.
He said the bill will have its first hearing in the House commerce committee on Jan. 11.
The House passed legalization last year, but the bill was stalled in the Senate, which is no longer an obstacle after the GOP’s defeat in the midterms.
“Over the last three years, DFLers in the Legislature have listened and worked to build a Minnesota-specific model for cannabis legalization. Frankly, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say we’ve engaged in among the most robust bill development processes of any legislation in the history of the Legislature,” Stephenson said.
The bill will create “a safe, well-regulated legal marketplace” for Minnesotans to “grow, sell, and buy cannabis,” according to Stephenson. He said the bill includes “best practices” for consumer protection, health, and public safety.
It also includes an expungement program for marijuana offenses and would create one regulatory system for all cannabis products.
“The point of this is not to raise revenue for the state of Minnesota. We should not legalize cannabis to raise revenue for the state of Minnesota. Our goal in this bill is to have a stable marketplace that’s self-sufficient so that the tax revenue funds the needed regulation,” Stephenson explained.
“Our caucus’ view is that the marketplace should be structured to benefit the people who were harmed by the previous prohibition regime,” he added.
Sen. Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville, indicated there may be some hesitation among Democrats in her chamber since the Senate “has not had a conversation on cannabis before.”
“We are going to take some time to educate our members and make sure we’re able to build the same bipartisan support that has been built in the House,” she said.
Port said Democrats are committed to moving the bill “through the process this year.”