Minnesota voters prepare to see marijuana on ballots


Public Domain image by B. Gibbins

A bill was proposed to legalize the possession and recreational use of marijuana in Minnesota on Jan. 22. Politicians hope to turn to the people for vote on this potential law.

Dylan Stormoen, Copy Editor

Minnesota politicians prepare for a bill that legalizes recreational marijuana use to pass their desks and potentially appear on the 2020 ballot. State Rep. Raymond Dehn recently proposed a bill Jan. 22, that would leave legalization of marijuana up to the voters. Before the measure can appear on the ballot however, it must pass through the House and the Senate.

This potential bill states that individuals 21 years of age and older are allowed to consume and possess cannabis and cannabis-infused products. The proposition would add this statement as a section to article XIII of the Minnesota Constitution. As an amendment, the act goes to the voters of Minnesota to take action.

Weaknesses of the bill

The controversial prospect of decriminalization raises concerns to people’s health, specifically the health of teenagers and young adults. Many people fear legalization of recreational marijuana may make it more accessible to under-age students. Studies show the human brain is not fully developed until ages 25-27. The impact of marijuana use on that development can be noticeable.

“Marijuana definitely brings motivation down and your drive to do well comes down as well,” nurse Melissa Fischer said, “If students are smoking a lot, you can see dropping of grades, dropping out of clubs or sports, their brain will be unable to learn as well.”

Marijuana is also used for its beneficial health aspects. Thirty-three states have already legalized medical marijuana use, including Minnesota. Marijuana can be effective in relieving chronic illnesses including various types of cancers, glaucoma, and arthritic pain. The drug is also known for controlling muscle spasms, epileptic seizures as well as anxiety and depression.

Smart Approaches to Marijuana, Minnesota, an active anti-legalization group, presented the additional concern of increases in impaired driving.

Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported, “Some studies have noted an increase in overall car crashes in states where recreational marijuana has been legalized.”

Strengths of the bill

However, despite these concerns regarding legalization, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz still strongly supports the decriminalization of marijuana use.

Walz stated in an interview with Kare 11 News, “I fully support the legalization of recreational marijuana. By doing so in a responsible manner and encouraging ‘Minnesota Grown’ products, we could reduce crime, create jobs and boost the economy.”

There were around 580,000 arrests for marijuana based crimes in 2016, according to Norml  over 90 percent of which dealt with possession only, at a cost of nearly $16 billion to tax payers. This number could decrease remarkably with marijuana legislation. These arrests have a personal impact as well. Each time one person is locked up for marijuana possession, an entire family is in turn affected. People struggle to find jobs and provide for their family after facing jail time.

Minnesota advocates for legalization look at cannabis as a method of healing and health care opposed to that of a crime. Marijuana is often used for medicinal purposes as well as recreational use, with a very low addiction rate amongst adults.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Nine percent of marijuana users become addicted, 17 percent of users who begin in their teen years become addicted.”

With such low addiction rates, concerns around marijuana usage at the proposed age requirement is misplaced. Based off these claims by Walz, the legalization is something Minnesotans should prepare themselves for.

The bill has great support among politicians as well local advocacy groups. Considering the positive impacts on the overall economy and standard of living, benefits of legalization outweigh the possible cons that have been presented. The legalization of recreational marijuana use in Minnesota may be close.