Pro-pot politicians celebrate at ‘Legalized It!’ concert in Minneapolis

Hundreds flocked to the state’s first dispensary at Red Lake Reservation.

Left: Hundreds flocked to the state’s first dispensary at Red Lake Reservation. (Native Care/Facebook) Right: Gov. Jesse Ventura speaks to the crowd at the "Legalized It" concert at First Avenue. (Instagram)

Call it the Great Minnesota Smoke Together. That’s what Aug. 1, 2023 felt like to a number of folks who spent at least part of their day celebrating the enactment of a new state statute that makes it legal for adults 21 and older to smoke recreational marijuana. And at least a handful politicians who pushed for legalization made it known they were “partaking” in the revelry.

While Rep. Maria Isa Perez-Vega, DFL-St. Paul, hinted that she was celebrating cannabis legalization with breakfast, she also ended the day performing on stage during the “Legalized It!” concert at First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis.

“Tonight! 8 p.m. at First Avenue I blaze the stage and maybe something else that became legal today,” tweeted Perez-Vega, a hip hop artist turned state legislator. She wasn’t the only politician playing to the crowd during the concert.

Former Gov. Jesse Ventura, a longtime cannabis legalization advocate, was part of a lineup of speakers who addressed the audience between musical acts. He was joined on stage by a number of DFL legislators, including state representatives Athena Hollins, Jess Hanson, Alicia Kozlowski and Sen. Clare Omou Verbeten.

“I proposed legalization back in 1998, and I couldn’t get even one legislator to carry a bill,” Ventura said to an adoring crowd at the First Ave event. “Not even one. But here it is 20 years later, fortunately I am still alive to see a dream I had come true.”

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar was there too, but not just to deliver a speech. The Democrat who represents Minneapolis, St. Louis Park and Edina in the U.S. House of Representatives took to social media over the weekend to announce that “Marijuana is being legalized in our state August 1st and I will be making my big stage music debut.”

Omar performed with a band that calls itself Marijuana Deathsquads as concert goers embraced the moment of their first concert in Minnesota where they could legally smoke a joint.

But even as some elected officials openly and proudly celebrated recreational cannabis legalization, Gov. Tim Walz made no public mention at all on Tuesday of the cannabis legalization bill he signed into law in May. And he hadn’t tweeted in any capacity since Sunday. Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan was also silent on social media on Tuesday.

Hundreds flock to state’s first dispensary at Red Lake Reservation

And while there was plenty of toking going on at First Avenue and elsewhere, some may wonder where they got their weed. It’s anybody’s guess. But several may have been one of the hundreds of marijuana enthusiasts who made the trip to Red Lake Reservation on Tuesday to purchase any one of 12 strains of smokeable cannabis from the first and (so far) only dispensary operating inside Minnesota’s borders, NativeCare.

Minnesota isn’t expected to begin licensing retailers to sell recreational cannabis in the state until January 2025, but tribal governments don’t have to wait for the state’s licensing system. And the Red Lake Tribal Council voted earlier this month to legalize recreational marijuana on the reservation and begin selling it to non-tribal members on Aug. 1.

Even as Minnesotans can now possess up to two pounds of cannabis flower in their homes and carry with them up to two ounces in public, retail sales across the state will take up to 18 months because the newly-created state Office of Cannabis Management isn’t expected to be ready to begin issuing licenses until early 2025.

NativeCare reported long lines all day, and told prospective customers on social media that it was “having an amazing first day of recreational sales! We have had such a great turnout that unfortunately we are having to cut off the line so we can be sure to serve everyone that has been patiently waiting. We look forward to seeing more of your smiling faces tomorrow at 11am! Miigwech!”

Many other cannabis legalization events took place across the metro area on Tuesday, including a celebration in St. Paul for Minnesota NORML, one of the longstanding pro-legalization organizations in the state. The organization held a press conference at Grounded Gardens near downtown St. Paul, where its leaders shared their 2024 legislative agenda.

And St. Paul-based Potshotz, a self-professed “Canna-Bar” that sells CBD-infused drinks, held a concert that featured “live music, awesome DJs, infused drinks, smoking areas, and more.”


Hank Long

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.