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Emotions run high over debate on recreational marijuana

A news conference called by opponents of legalization Wednesday was marked by heckling from marijuana supporters before ending in a shouting match.

ST PAUL, Minn. — ST. PAUL, Minn. - Emotions ran high as the debate kicked off at the state Capitol on whether Minnesota should legalize recreational marijuana.  

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A news conference called by opponents of legalization Wednesday was marked by heckling from marijuana supporters before ending in a shouting match.

Judson "Kim" Bemis of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Minnesota said the current science does not support the commercialization and normalization of recreational marijuana. He said use by teens and young adults skyrockets when marijuana is legalized.

After Dakota County authorities also spoke against legalization, activist John Thompson heatedly related how his friend, Philando Castile , was shot and killed by a police officer who smelled burnt marijuana after stopping Castile's car in Falcon Heights in 2016. He said marijuana is a tool that police use to attack black men.

Members of the Minnesota Cannabis Coalition got word of the planned news conference by legalization opponents and arranged to stage a protest of sorts, promising to hold their own media event to "debunk the misinformation."

RELATED: Will Minnesota approve recreational marijuana in 2019?

They say prohibiting recreational marijuana is "senseless, expensive, corrupt," and "structurally racist."

Meanwhile, SAMMn members say initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana in other states have led to increased access and drug use among youth, higher risks of impaired driving, and an increase in emergency departments.

Tuesday, Minnesotans for Responsible Marijuana Regulation (MRMR) announced that it has launched the MRMR Steering Committee,  a "statewide, multi-partisan coalition and campaign to support the legalization and regulation of marijuana for safe adult recreational use in Minnesota."

The MRMR Steering Committee released a list of members, which includes Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.

MRMR Steering Committee List

Dario Anselmo, Former MN State Representative (R-Edina)

Tomme Beevas, Owner of Pimento

Sam Clark, Former St. Paul City Attorney

Ben Feist, Legislative Director of ACLU Minnesota

Jacob Frey, Mayor of Minneapolis

Beth Gendler, Executive Director of National Council of Jewish Women MN

Elliot Ginsburg, Attorney at Garner & Ginsburg

Cydi Lesher, Host Committee Chair, 2009 RNC & Volunteer Committee Chair, 2018 Super Bowl

Carin Mrotz, Executive Director of Jewish Community Action

Leslie Redmond, Executive Director of NAACP Minneapolis

Zachary Robins, Attorney at Messerli Kramer

Sam Strong, Director of Planning and Economic Development for the Red Lake Nation

Jason Tarasek, Minnesota Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project

Sarah Walker, Founder of MN Second Chance Coalition

Brendan Peterson, Former MN State Senator (R-Andover)

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