Breaking News
More () »

Will Gov. Walz’s weed proposal light up the state’s economy or burn out in the senate?

$25 million is proposed for a “Cannabis Management Office,” with the goal of legalizing cannabis by 2024, but only if it survives legislative discussions next week.

ST PAUL, Minn. — On Wednesday, Governor Tim Walz announced the final pillar of his budget proposals ahead of next week’s legislative session, where Republicans and Democrats will discuss how to spend the state’s money.

The final piece revolved around public safety, including giving individual cities money to hire police officers, community leaders to provide intervention and after-school programs to keep at-risk children socializing in school.

But it isn’t all about law enforcement, as his budget details lay out.

Recreational marijuana for adults is on his budget recommendations. Well, at least a committee to look into it, that is.

If passed as is, it would bring in $25 million for the formation of a Cannabis Management Office,” which would work on a framework for statewide recreational use, and grants to assist people looking to enter the market.

But this isn’t the first time Minnesotans have debated legalizing it and many Republicans at the State Capitol say they’re opposed to anything weed-related at the moment.

So how do they expect this to pass?

Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture Andrea Vaubel said the proposal is a lot like that in May 2021, where medical, smokable, flower marijuana was legalized in the state.

Before it was passed through the House and Senate, only liquid and topical marijuana was allowed for medical cases.

Vaubel also said the goal of putting this initiative in the public safety portion of the budget is because it allows law enforcement to focus on more pressing matters.

“We really need to make sure we’re modernizing solutions to make sure that we’re harnessing all the benefits that there are to legalizing cannabis and there’s a lot of things with expanding our economy, jobs across the state, really allowing law enforcement to focus on violent crimes,” Vaubel said.

Meanwhile, Paul Aasen, president of the Minnesota Safety Council said, while he supports opening the discussion with a committee, that legalizing recreational weed could backfire into more crimes.

“Impairment on the roads is not going down,” Aasen said. “Will that increase or decrease if you legalize it… how much load does that put on the system?”

“You don’t want to legalize marijuana until you’ve talked about these issues,” he said.

Aasen said the council is supportive of the initiative in the budget as it doesn’t outright legalize weed recreationally, but shows promise of creating a plan of public safety surrounding its potential legalization.

“I think it’s the right next step for us to take,” he said.

He said one of the main concerning factors for the Minnesota Safety Council is that increased weed usage could harm a struggling job market. 

“We think that use of impairing substances while operating in safety-sensitive positions is a bad idea. If you mix marijuana into that lack of employees and safety-sensitive occupations, we could find a point where people are having a hard time finding employees that can pass drug screens,” Aasen said. 

So far, all of the Republican Senate Public Safety committee members have said that they are against the committee.

Senate Majority Leader, Republican Jeremy Miller, was not available for an interview Thursday, but said in a pre-session forum on Wednesday that he is not in favor of marijuana’s legalization.

The results remain to be seen, but with the formation of a committee to establish a framework for legalization, Gov. Walz’s cabinet is hopeful in its success.

“What we are proposing is to legalize adult use of cannabis. I think the way to do that is through this committee and this would allow the legalization of adult use of cannabis but then really set up the parameters and the regulations that’s necessary to do this safely and responsibly,” Vaubel said.

Both Republicans and Democrats at the State Capitol said they are prioritizing public safety in next week’s legislative session. 

Gov. Walz’s weed proposal is part of his office's recommendations for public safety, but we’ll see if that remains in line with the majority’s goals for the same issue.

The legislative session kicks off Jan. 31.

WATCH: Minnesota lawmakers approve smoking medical cannabis for adults:

Before You Leave, Check This Out