ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Gov. Tim Walz and key legislative Democrats signaled recreational marijuana could pass the legislature next session, after their party took total control of the capitol and opened the door to passing more progressive proposals.
Walz in an appearance on WCCO radio Friday morning reiterated that it could happen next year. Former Gov. Jesse Ventura, who endorsed Walz's campaign in the final days, said on a podcast Thursday that the incumbent DFL governor said cannabis for adults would be one of the first bills signed next session, a conversation Walz confirmed took place.
He credited Ventura for starting the conversation in Minnesota sooner than it was more common in states nationwide. After Tuesday's election, where the issue was before voters in some states, 21 states have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
"It just makes sense. Prohibition didn't work. We get better regulation." Walz said. "I just mentioned that I think it would be important to recognize him, asked him if he would be there when we get this done."
The new partisan makeup of the capitol next year increases its chances. While Senate Democrats did not outright commit when asked earlier this week, they will have the majority, clearing a roadblock that has thwarted legislation before—the DFL-controlled House passed a bill last May that didn't get a hearing in the Republican-led Senate.
House Democrats appear ready to approve it once more.
"This caucus supports adult use cannabis," House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, told reporters Thursday night. "I believe we will pass that bill."
Last year's legislation would make recreational marijuana legal for anyone 21 or older, expunge low-level cannabis crimes and create a grant program for Minnesotans to launch cannabis businesses, among other provisions in a 250-page bill.
Polling shows support for legalization has increased in the last several years. A Star Tribune survey this fall found a majority—53%—of Minnesotans support the measure with 36% unopposed and 11% unsure. There are fault lines when it comes to age and political affiliation: More younger Minnesotans and Democrats support it than older Minnesotans and Republicans do.
Cody Dornbusch, who is manager of Hemp House in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis, said the business are already considering expanding from retail stores to production—especially if there is a new market for marijuana next year.
"Seeing it kind of happen is a surreal thing," Dornbusch said. "Seeing how [the THC edibles law] hit on July 1—we had lines and couldn't keep up with having products on the shelves. So I'm thinking we're going to go through that again."
Steven Brown, CEO Nothing But Hemp, which operates six stores in Minnesota, also welcomed the possibility of recreational marijuana passing after lawmakers reconvene in St. Paul in early January. He hopes the legislature takes its time with crafting policy that is right for the state—and allows both the hemp and marijuana industries to thrive.
Specifically, he hopes lawmakers leave in place allowing on-site consumption of THC edibles. Local breweries have created their own THC drinks served at their taprooms and at least one restaurant has it on their menu for customers to order with their meal.
"I believe legalization has already happened in a lot of ways. What we're missing is flower in Minnesota. You can't legally sell marijuana flower recreationally," he said. "I think we could have a really good thriving market here."
testMarch 13, 2023 at 10:47 AM