ST PAUL, Minn. — Early on Saturday morning a much-debated piece of legislation moved through the Senate and is now headed to the desk of Gov. Tim Walz for a promised signature.
After 1 a.m., the Legal Adult-Use Cannabis bill passed through the Senate with a 34-32 vote. This bill would not only legalize cannabis for use by adults, but would also automatically expunge low-level cannabis offenses for tens of thousands of Minnesotans.
“The prohibition on cannabis has had tremendously negative impacts on the lives of Minnesotans, especially our communities of color, and it is time for us to change course, create a system that works for adult-use cannabis, and create a regulated market for Minnesota,” said Senator Lindsey Port (DFL-Burnsville), chief author of the legislation.
Gov. Walz has indicated he plans to sign the bill when it arrives on his desk.
If passed, retail sales wouldn't start in Minnesota until 2024 with local governments controlling the location of the stores. This would allow local lawmakers the ability to prevent retailers from opening near schools or parks.
Rep. Dave Baker (R-Willmar) spoke out against the bill on Friday, saying he believed it could lead to addiction.
"More youth will become addicted to drugs because of this bill. Now just let that sink in for a minute — it's going to happen," said Rep. Baker, who was one of 56 House Republicans to vote against the bill. "They won't likely die from cannabis, but they will become addicted through cannabis."
Many Minnesotans at Art-A-Whirl in Minneapolis were in support like vendor Ashley Becerra, who owns Everyday Ejiji.
"I think it's awesome. I think it's long overdue," said Becerra. "There are multiple states across the country that I've found great success with the legalization of recreational marijuana."
She was not alone in her opinion at the event.
"I think for a long time people didn't think marijuana could be legal," said Keira Thompson, who owns Kiki Found. "I know I didn't. I think it's pretty great."
MN is Ready is one of the organizations that fought for this. They say the reaction isn't surprising.
"We are very excited to usher in a new era where consumers have a choice," said Leili Fatehi, the campaign manager for the organization. "They will have safe, regulated products."
But some folks we talked with thought substance dependencies are bad enough in the state.
"I don't think smoking weed is going to help that," said shopper Natalie Davis.
The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association said their biggest worry is traffic safety, that there will be more drivers under the influence, and that there are limited resources to regulate that.
"Agencies are going to have to retrain their staff and obviously become very up to speed with what the law now states," said Jeff Potts, the executive director of the association.
They said some of their warning signs were taken into account in the bill.
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