Is Minnesota on the Fast Track to Legalization?


Typically, conversations centering on which state will legalize cannabis next do not find their way to Minnesota, where current Governor Mark Dayton is a staunch opponent of cannabis legalization. In a 2014 poll on the topic, just 30 percent of Minnesotans who responded believed marijuana should be legalized for adults in the state.

But things have certainly changed in the last few years.

During the 12-day Minnesota State Fair, the House of Representatives conducts a wide-ranging poll of fair-goers to gain insight into trends among the state’s population. One of the questions Minnesotans were asked was if they would support the legalization of marijuana for adults above the age of 21. Over 7,100 respondents answered the question, with a slight majority (50.2 percent) favoring recreational legalization.

And this major shift in cannabis cognizance isn’t isolated to voters, either. Among the major candidates for Governor of Minnesota in the incumbent Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) party, all but one wholeheartedly supports the legalization of marijuana.

United States Representative Tim Walz, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, and state Representatives Erin Murphy, Tina Liebling, and Paul Thissen each want to see adults in Minnesota gain legal access to marijuana for recreational use — State Auditor Rebecca Otto is the lone gubernatorial candidate who opposes legal weed in the state.

“When you confront the reality of the cost of criminalization vs. the benefits of legalization, I think the benefits outweigh the costs,” explained Mayor Coleman to the Star Tribune.

Governor Dayton’s current term expires in 2018 and he has already announced he will not seek reelection. On the other side of the aisle, all four prominent Republican candidates for governor want to keep marijuana illegal for adult use.

Republicans have control of the Minnesota Senate until the 2020 election, and unlike many other states that have advanced marijuana reform with the help of voter-led initiatives, Minnesota state law doesn’t allow for that kind of campaign. Thus, the burden of ending prohibition in the state will fall on the shoulders of its lawmakers. Thankfully, there appears to be an influx of progressive new candidates who recognize the immense benefit of a regulated cannabis market.

“The system we have had was that we looked the other way, unless you’re a person of color, in which case you face the threat of arrest and incarceration,” said Walz.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, a Black person is 7.81 times more likely to be arrested for a marijuana-related charge in Minnesota than a White person, while the arrest rate nationally is (a still inexcusable) 3.73 times higher for Black people — marijuana usage rates are roughly the same for each group of Americans.

“To me it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when, and I think the time is now,” Coleman added.

Image Courtesy of Allie Beckett

About Author

Used to write about music for XXL, Elevator, Complex, Genius, and a few other outlets. Follow @LongLiveTheDuke on Twitter if you'd like to read way fewer words by me.


  1. Lawrence Goodwin on

    A great report from Minnesota, Duke. You could easily substitute New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the first paragraph and still be spot on. The man literally hates pot smokers so he discriminates against them by peddling the “gateway” nonsense in public, as a means to justify his own relentless and “staunch” opposition to “adult use.” It is the height of arrogance for strongly weed-biased politicians to dominate such policies for millions of constituents. At last, Cuomo has offered some support to NY hemp farmers and “medical cannabis” for ~20,000 active patients. But in 2014 he was in cahoots with Minnesota officials as they imposed a preposterous rule of “no smoking” flower/hash/extracts, etc.–all in a vain attempt to ‘recreate the wheel’ of medical cannabis in both states. It’s none of the damned politicians’ business how cannabis is produced and consumed. Their only job is to ensure that all forms of cultivation and commerce are safe. They either understand the importance of limited government, free trade and ‘pursuit of happiness,’ or they do not.

    p.s. to Ms. Allie Beckett, who perfectly reveals the beauty and mystery of cannabis plants in every image: time and work have preoccupied me, but soon I will visit CannaObscura for the literature, as we discussed before.✌️

  2. Brendan J. O’Connell on

    It is so wrong that alcohol is legal and marijuana is illegal. As a Recovering alcoholic I have the experience of falling down the downward spiral of the defined “depressant” alcohol more than once, and marijuana doesn’t create this. Alcohol kills the brain, weakens every muscle in the body, while marijuana stimulates synapses and creates a very relaxing “hangover” and after effect. For those who appose the legalization of marijuana I only have to say: just because it’s legal doesn’t mean one has to partake in it, and where’s your United States of American pride? Canada is beating us at something.

  3. It’s a shame that this is even illegal still in this day in age when it has so many very good and helpful uses. It’s a shame that some doctors will not give us are medications because we choose to use are marijuana for other medical issues that we don’t need the pills for that never worked but marijuana did and that’s a shame.. No one should have their kids took away because of it. I’m ashamed of this state and the people who run it. Shame on u.

  4. We need lawmakers who understand the true wants and needs of Minnesota’s residents. Even with medical legalization I know many who still can’t get it when they have seizures. This means they have to use illegally because we still have lawmakers sticking to the stigma of marijuana use. We need a change and an honest poll in this state. Minnesota has neglected the voices of many of it’s residents especially those in need.

  5. I really really really am tired of who Mark Dayton seems to represent in my state. It has never been me and I am on the Democrat side of the coin. We need progressive change. And Mark has never been one for anything like that. “Keep your head down, they can’t fire you if they can’t find you.” Colman for Governor!

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