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Minnesota Democrats pledge recreational marijuana will become legal in 2023

Proposal would legalize recreational marijuana in MN
Proposal would legalize recreational marijuana in MN 01:46

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Democrats on Thursday pledged that they would pass recreational marijuana this session with their new majorities in both chambers, which helps clear a path for the effort previously stymied by Republicans.

"I believe 2023 will be the year we legalize adult-use cannabis," says Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, the bill's author. "Cannabis should not be illegal in Minnesota. Minnesotans deserve the freedom and respect to make responsible decisions about cannabis themselves. Our current laws are doing more harm than good."

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The sweeping legislation that's nearly 250 pages long would legalize the purchase, sale and use of recreational cannabis for Minnesotans 21 or older. It would also expunge low-level cannabis convictions, which Democrats say is an equity issue because Black residents are disproportionately arrested for possession, according to data from the ACLU.

The bill advanced out of the Minnesota House two years ago but didn't go anywhere in the Senate, then controlled by Republicans. Still, GOP Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, in a statement noted concerns and urged Democrats not to rush to pass. It is scheduled for its first hearing next week, but will likely take months to move through the legislative process because it will be discussed in multiple committees.

"We don't take the risks that marijuana poses to youth, minorities, and the vulnerable, lightly," he said. "The Senate DFL will need to decide if they want to rush this process to keep their political partners happy or take their time to decide if full-blown legalization is the right thing for Minnesota. "

Stephenson said the proposal is largely the same as the previous version, but now also addresses hemp-derived THC edibles, which became legal last summer. There were some gaps with that law—like no licensing requirements or additional taxes levied—that he said the bill will address. All hemp and marijuana products would be regulated and taxed the same, he said.

In October, President Joe Biden said he would pardon federal offenses for simple marijuana possession and order his administration to review how cannabis is treated under federal law.

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