Leading Democratic lawmakers in Minnesota are readying themselves for another marijuana legalization effort this session, with the focus primarily on garnering support in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Melisa Franzen (D) and House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D) discussed the prospect’s of Winkler’s House-passed cannabis reform bill to make further progress in the legislature at a roundtable event organized by the Minnesota Hemp Growers Cooperative.
Winkler’s bill passed through no less than 12 committees before finally gaining full House approval, but he said the measure is not perfect and he intends to work with the Senate to tweak the measure’s provisions so it may stand a better chance of clearing the upper chamber.
“As we look ahead to this session…our goal is to go back and reexamine provisions of the bill,” he said, before highlighting licensing processes as well as public safety and substance misuse concerns as key issues to revisit and work through.
“We will be working with our colleagues in the Minnesota Senate,” Winkler continued. “We’re interested in pursuing legalization to make sure that the bill represents senators’ priorities for legalization as well.”
The House majority leader then acknowledged that “any effort this year that would be successful would require Republican support.”
For Senate Minority Leader Melisa Franzen though, the prospects of this happening aren’t looking great.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a path to legalization this year in the Minnesota Senate. It’s controlled by the Republican party, and they have there’s a few members who are really adamantly opposed to legalization,” said Franzen.
Gov. Tim Walz (D) supports marijuana legalization but while he didn’t have the opportunity sign the reform into law last session, he did enact a measure to expand Minnesota’s medical cannabis program. Registered patients will now be able to access smokable cannabis products by no later than March 1, 2022.
This reform to Minnesota’s marijuana laws, according to Winkler, was only possible “because of the work done” by legalization advocates to push Republicans into backing the measure.
Meanwhile, following heightened enforcement by Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture and Board of Pharmacy against CBD sales in the state, marijuana reform advocates have called on lawmakers to step in with a legislative solution.
Winkler discussed the brewing tensions at the roundtable event and said last year’s success with expanding the state’s medical cannabis program will act as “a template for how we will address challenges with CBD this year.”
“My staff is working very closely with advocates, working with senators, working with other House members to get in a repair for the CBD industry, and I have every confidence that we will be able to do that with your help,” he added.
A recent poll conducted on behalf of Minnesota House lawmakers showed marijuana legalization has the support of 58 percent of voters, a two percent increase from when the last such poll was made in 2019.
Winkler, for his part, said he will look to put the question of marijuana legalization to voters at this year’s ballot, should Senate Republicans stand firm in their opposition to the reform.