MINNESOTA COULD BE NEXT LEGALIZE

6,829 Minnesotans were arrested for marijuana possession in 2015—39 percent of all the drug arrests in the state—but that could be changing if a few Minnesotan lawmakers have anything to say about it. In early 2017, two Democratic lawmakers plan to introduce bills to legalize marijuana in Minnesota. If one of the measures passes, unfortunately unlikely due to the Republican-controlled legislature, it would make Minnesota the ninth state to allow for the legal sale and use of marijuana.

Marijuana to Fund Schools

Rep. Jon Applebaum’s bill wants recreational marijuana to be regulated like alcohol. His hope is that it would allow the state to receive increased tax revenues from marijuana sales that could then be used to fund public schools. The bill would allow any Minnesotan over the age of 21 to use, possess and buy up to one ounce of marijuana starting in 2019. However, there are some conditions. The bill highly regulates the growing, harvesting and retail sales of marijuana with the purpose of creating a “Made in Minnesota” economy.

In a press release, Rep. Applebaum said: “Ultimately, I envision a billion dollar ‘Made in Minnesota’ marijuana economy, where the products are grown by Minnesota farmers, distributed by Minnesota companies and sold by Minnesota small business owners. Ideally, all tax proceeds would be directed towards funding Minnesota’s public schools and would result in lower taxes for Minnesota families.”

Marijuana: The Constitutional Amendment

The second bill, put forth by Rep. Tina Liebling, is proposed as a constitutional amendment. The bill, supported by Rep. Liebling and eight other Minnesota lawmakers—all Democrats—proposes to let Minnesota voters decide whether or not to legalize recreational marijuana.

According to a press release, Rep. Liebling’s plan will include “many comprehensive polices that allow for a robust, competitive market in which small producers and sellers can participate, assure purchasers that the product is uncontaminated and properly labeled, allow adults to cultivate cannabis for personal use and protect youth from exposure.”

Under Rep. Liebling’s plan, the tax revenue derived from recreational marijuana would go toward chemical dependency treatment, as well as mental health education and treatment. “My bill would let citizens decide whether it is time to try a different path—one already successfully paved by many other states,” she said in the same statement.

Minnesota’s Medical Marijuana Law

If either bill is successful, Minnesota would join eight other states in the legal recreational marijuana market. On July 1, 2015, medical marijuana became legal in the state, and last year the state added “intractable pain” to the list of qualifying conditions. PTSD will be added to the list on August 1, 2017.

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