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Minnesota House Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill

The bill, passed on a 72-61 vote, now faces daunting prospects in the GOP-controlled Minnesota Senate.

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The Minnesota House on Thursday night passed a recreational Cannabis legalization bill, reports CBS Minnesota. It’s the first time such a measure has ever advanced this far in the state Legislature.

The bill passed on a 72-61 vote, with even a few Republican votes. Its passage followed hours of debate and a dozen capitol committee hearings. Lawmakers held community meetings across the state, as well as consultations with state agencies.

Now, unfortunately, the bill will now run into a brick wall of political reality. The GOP, representing that wall of prohibition, controls the Minnesota Senate. Republicans leaders in that chamber refuse to even take the bill up for debate or a vote.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, a Republican, said the bill is “up in smoke” in the Senate and won’t advance. But he expressed openness to lowering criminal penalties and supports expanding medical uses for it.

“Making legalized pot for fun — we just don’t think that’s a good idea,” Gazelka said. While this politician may believe he’s “playing to the crowd,” a majority of Minnesotans disagree with him. A poll last year showed 51 percent of Minnesotans favor marijuana legalization, with 37 percent opposing. The rest are unsure.

Democrats: ‘A Long Time Coming’

Democrats, nevertheless, say growing support among the public and politicians alike shows Minnesota is ready to legalize.

“This bill is a long time coming,” said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley). “Minnesotans have decided that it is time to legalize cannabis and right the wrongs of the criminal prohibition of cannabis that has failed Minnesota.”

“These thoughtful efforts will result in probably the most carefully considered cannabis bill in the country,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park. “It’s responsible and it’s time for us to end prohibition.”

Cannabis prohibition disproportionately affects Black Minnesotans. This is despite roughly equal levels of usage with Whites. Legalization supporters believe ending prohibition would decrease the level of racial injustice, because of how the law is enforced.

The bill would legalize marijuana for Minnesotans 21 and older, as well as expunge low-level cannabis convictions. It would establish an expungement board to review more serious offenses involving cannabis.

It would also provide grants and loans for small businesses trying to enter the newly-legal industry. The bill’s language allows individuals to have up to 10 pounds of Cannabis in their homes and up to two ounces in a public place.

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