By Pat Kessler

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — A political smoke signal — and a sign of things to come.

As pressure grows to legalize recreational pot, a Minnesota group held a press conference to say “commercialization” and normalization” of pot is the wrong way to go.

“People are not interested in having pot stores in their neighborhood, across from their schools or opening their Sunday paper and finding several pages of marijuana ads,” said Kim Bemis of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Minnesota.

Legal marijuana advocates hijacked the press conference, accusing opponents of lying about it — and police of targeting black men who smoke it.

“And I’ve seen police harass us. Pull us out of the car; rip our cars apart because they smell marijuana,” said John Thompson of St. Paul.

The raucous press conference ended abruptly, but protesters continued arguing on the way out.

So many marijuana supporters voted in the last election that Minnesota now has two major marijuana parties.

Gov. Tim Walz says he wants to hear for opponents, but he’s open to holding legalization hearings this year.

“And there’s satisfaction that we have explored all the pros and cons around it, and crafted a good piece of legislation,” said Walz. “Then it would be my intention, I think, yes, we should go ahead and start moving.”

Ten states in the U.S. have already legalized recreational marijuana, but it’s way too early to say if Minnesota will be the 11th.

But the debate is here now, and a vote could be coming soon.

Pat Kessler

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