A ranking DFL legislator has introduced a bill in the Minnesota Senate that would effectively eliminate the Legal Marijuana Now Party from its major party status by the 2024 election — a goal Democrat operatives and their allies have been accused of working on the last few election cycles in Minnesota.
The bill’s sponsor is Sen. Jim Carlson, DFL-Eagan. SF1827 was introduced on Thursday and referred to the Senate Elections Committee, where Carlson is chair. A committee hearing has yet to be scheduled.
The bill doesn’t yet have a companion in the House, nor does it include a research summary that is typically conducted by non-partisan Senate staff. But its language is simple, as it amends the following clause in state statute, striking the words “five percent” and replacing it with “ten percent:”
“’Major political party’ means a political party that maintains a party organization in the state, political division or precinct in question and that has presented at least one candidate for election to the office of: governor and lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor, or attorney general at the last preceding state general election for those offices; or presidential elector or U.S. senator at the last preceding state general election for presidential electors; and whose candidate received votes in each county in that election and received votes from not less than five percent of the total number of individuals who voted in that election.”
The legislation also adds a section to the statute that says it is effective “the day following final enactment and applies to a party’s status at the state primary and general election held in 2024 and thereafter.”
DFLers in vulnerable seats hedging on marijuana legislation?
Carlson’s bill comes at a juncture in the legislative session where some DFL members in politically vulnerable seats have privately expressed concerns over the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s letter opposing a recreational cannabis legalization bill that’s making its way through both the House and the Senate, according to sources in the legislature. Some speculate that if the DFL “trifecta” can’t pass a recreational cannabis legalization bill this session, that will be looked at as a failed promise by DFLers who have courted voters sympathetic to marijuana legalization.
In the 2022 election both the Legal Marijuana Now and Grassroots–Legalize Cannabis parties had major party status, which Minnesota state statute grants to parties that achieve at least 5 percent of the vote in a previous statewide election. Grassroots–Legalize Cannabis Party is set to lose its major party status in 2024. But Legal Marijuana Now would still receive major party status in 2024, unless Sen. Carlson’s bill were passed in the House and Senate and signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz.
Last May, a small group of DFLers were caught on tape conspiring with local marijuana activist Marcus Harcus to lead an effort to change the name of the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party to “MAGA Party.” That group, according to a story from the Marijuana Moment, included Rep. Aisha Gomez, DFL-Minneapolis, Paul Cumings, former chief of staff to then-House majority leader Ryan Winkler, and a staffer for Sen. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul. In an audio tape of the virtual meeting, several voices mention the need to change the name of the party so that they could capture more votes from those sympathetic to marijuana legalization efforts.
Winkler stepped away from the House in December after his legislative term expired, following his failed bid for Hennepin County attorney. He now runs the “MN Is Ready” campaign, focused on advocating for the marijuana legalization bill this session.
Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.