MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A lawyer who helped write Minnesota’s medical marijuana law is going to work for a company that sells it.
Jamie Olson is the third public official to join LeafLine Labs. She helped the Minnesota House craft the law that legalized medical cannabis last year.
We learned Thursday that DFL Rep. Dan Schoen is becoming a security consultant for the company. He advocated for the law, and a former health department leader is now LeafLine’s CEO. Manny Munson-Regala ran the office that picked the company to be one of two growers in the state.
Most states have laws against moves like these, but Minnesota does not. So, what are the ethics rules for Minnesota lawmakers?
WCCO found what has happened at LeafLine could lead to tougher laws down the line.
Sen. David Hann, the GOP minority leader, is proposing a commission to look at Minnesota’s ethics and conflict-of-interest laws. Those laws have been criticized for years compared to what is on the books in other states.
David Schultz teaches government ethics, and for the last month says he has gathered plenty of new material.
“The simple answer is there aren’t that many ethics laws Minnesota lawmakers must follow,” Schultz said.
It is so bad the Center for Public Integrity gives Minnesota a “D plus” for our ethics laws. Schultz believes the grade has the most to do with what has not happened here.
“Compared to states like Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, we’ve had a relatively clean political culture and therefore not as many needs to have to address some of these issues,” he said.
Minnesota lawmakers banned lavish gifts from lobbyists and strengthened campaign finance laws in the 90s. Two years ago, they relaxed those rules.
“There’s an awful lot missing in Minnesota compared to what we see in many other states,” Schultz said.
Thirty-three states have cooling-off periods which prevent lawmakers from going to work as lobbyists. In Minnesota, the House has a one-year rule that for the most part has been ignored. There is no penalty for not following it.
An analysis by the Pioneer Press found in the last 12 years, more than 50 legislators have become lobbyists once they left, like long-time DFL Majority Leader Roger Moe.
“People should care,” Schultz said.
He says without stronger laws, the public loses by not knowing if lawmakers are trading votes and legislation at the Capitol for more lucrative careers.
“It really is about a whole bunch of issues that address political corruption,” Schultz said.
He also thinks having a part-time legislature plays a part. He says since Minnesota lawmakers hold other jobs beyond their four months, it is even more important to have strong conflict-of-interest laws since there is a greater potential for lawmakers to bring outside work to the Capitol.