MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota lawmakers got their first look this week at the emotional debate over legalizing marijuana.
Governor Tim Walz says he would like to see hearings this year on the controversial issue. But already, both sides are throwing out claims that are tough to prove.
It’s way too soon to say whether Minnesota will join the 10 states that have already legalized recreational marijuana. But we already know a lot of the arguments pro and con from other states are coming here.
A shouting match erupted at Minnesota’s first marijuana press conference, held Wednesday. It highlighted deep differences, and some hard truths.
“About 500 people per year have been going to prison in Minnesota for marijuana cases,” said Thomas Gallagher of NORML.
This is true. The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission reports 487 people were sentenced in 2018 for serious marijuana crimes.
Here’s a claim from opponents: Other states are “decriminalizing” but not “legalizing.”
“And people are very for de-criminalization, but when it comes to commercialization, that’s another matter altogether,” said Kim Bemis from Smart Approach to Marijuana Minnesota.
True. Ten states legalized marijuana. Thirteen states decriminalized, but did not legalize. In Colorado, the Department of Justice said it’s too early to draw any conclusions about legal pot. But it reports marijuana use is up, pot arrests are down and marijuana driving violations are up.
One fact is consistent: Marijuana makes money. Colorado took in $266,529,637 in pot revenue in 2018 — and almost a billion dollars ($905,508,416) since 2014.
Gov. Walz does support legalizing recreational marijuana, and he says the legislature should begin hearings on it this year. But that doesn’t mean the legislature will take a vote this year, and it very likely will not.