In a joint letter addressed to Gov. Tim Walz and other Democratic leaders, several GOP lawmakers expressed “deep concern” with a cannabis legalization bill that will take effect in just four days.
“Recent reporting has revealed serious concerns with the bill — including that it effectively legalized marijuana use for children — that these members believe need to be addressed promptly in order to protect our kids and communities,” a press release from the Minnesota House Republican Caucus explained.
The letter, written by Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, and signed by 19 other Republican members of the House, calls for a special session of the Minnesota Legislature to address their concerns.
Specifically, the lawmakers point to comments made by Sen. Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville, one of the bill’s authors, indicating that Democrats intended to decriminalize marijuana use and possession of small amounts for all people, including minors.
“What we learned getting ready for this bill and talking to folks in other states is that prohibition doesn’t work,” Port told MinnPost. “The best way to get young people to use cannabis less is to use real money to educate them in ways that they can hear, which means peer to peer programming, and having a legal market where you have to be 21 to buy and you have to go to a dispensary to buy it.”
The MinnPost article explains that the new cannabis law makes it illegal for people under 21 to use or possess marijuana but removes all penalties for doing so. However, state statutes provide a default petty misdemeanor penalty for any act that is prohibited by law but comes with no specific penalty. A petty misdemeanor is the lowest possible penalty under state law and is not considered a crime, MinnPost reports.
This has caused confusion among parents and local jurisdictions, according to the letter.
“Marijuana use among children and teenagers is a serious problem,” the letter states. Citing information from the CDC, the lawmakers stress that marijuana consumption among young individuals could lead to a heightened risk of mental health issues, impaired cognitive abilities, memory and learning problems, as well as difficulties in school and social life.
In addition to the health concerns, the lawmakers express alarm over reports from law enforcement that marijuana is being laced with dangerous illicit drugs, including fentanyl.
They argue that imposing legal consequences for possession and consumption of marijuana by minors would serve as a crucial deterrent against youth addiction and protect young individuals from potential harm.
“This legislation deliberately took away an important tool for parents, law enforcement, and local communities to keep kids from harming themselves or others,” the lawmakers write.
They want Democratic leaders to agree to a “narrowly tailored” special session to address the following issues:
- Reinstate penalties for possession and consumption of marijuana for those under 21 years of age.
- Provide local communities with broader and permanent regulatory authority over the sale, possession, and consumption of marijuana, and impose greater limits on smoking and vaping of marijuana in public places.
- Close the Black-Market Loophole that allows for illicit sales to flourish in the period between when marijuana possession and consumption is legalized and when a regulated retail market is established.
“These are basic, responsible steps that can be taken now to avoid larger problems in the future,” the letter concludes. “We stand ready and willing to work with you on solutions that protect our kids and communities.”