DFLers introduce bills to legalize recreational weed in Minnesota

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The Republican majority likely won't even give them a hearing, but the lawmakers' lead could inspire more stoners to fight for legalization. Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

In the wildly unpredictable year that saw Donald Trump become president, the recreational marijuana market exploded, becoming legal in eight states plus Washington D.C.

Retail vacancies in those states are at an all-time low. Applications to their public universities are at an all-time high. The three U.S. cities with the fastest growing real estate values – Denver, Portland, and Seattle – all have legal weed.

In Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational use, there’s been a 30 percent growth in tourism in the last couple years.

Rep. Jon Applebaum (DFL-Minnetonka) is eager to have a piece of that pie.

He’s introduced a bill that would allow Minnesotans who are 21 and older to buy, have, and smoke/vape/dab/bake up to an ounce of marijuana. They could also choose to cultivate up to six plants at a time.

Marijuana use in public, as well as driving under its influence, would stay illegal. The legislation also includes a blueprint for regulating and taxing the industry.

“I want a Minnesota-made economy where Minnesota farmers can grow it and Minnesota businesses can distribute and sell it,” Applebaum says. “We need to make Minnesota a place where people want to be, where people have jobs that are interesting to them, to add to our over all wonderful quality of life. And for those that don’t like it, they don’t have to use it.”

Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL – Rochester), Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL – St. Paul), and Rep. Jason Metsa (DFL-Eveleth) have authored another bill with similar language for a constitutional amendment.

The legislators are currently looking for colleagues across the aisle to jump on board, but the bill may not make it across the finish line this session, says Michael Ford of Minnesota NORML, the state’s oldest marijuana advocacy organization.

Ford applauds Applebaum, Liebling, Hausman, and Metsa for being the first to tackle the issue. But with Republicans in charge of the legislature, he doesn’t expect the bill to have a public hearing this session. All the same, he hopes that broaching the topic at the Capitol will jumpstart a populist movement, and that if and when recreational marijuana is passed in Minnesota, the law would include a provision for erasing past convictions for possession.

“This is what we have been working for in Minnesota for years,” Ford says. “Countless hours of educating, registering voters, rallies at the Capitol, contacting legislators. The movement to end prohibition needs leaders in legislation to step up to the plate and speak for the people.”


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