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