People in the district are asking, so I’ll say it again: I support the legalization of adult-use cannabis in Minnesota. It just makes sense for criminal justice, public health, and the economy.
There is little doubt that current marijuana cannabis laws are too often used as an excuse to target Minnesotans of color. A report by the ACLU found that Black Minnesotans were arrested for cannabis possession more than five times more than white Minnesotans, despite comparable usage rates. That’s unacceptable. I support expunging the records of people previously convicted of nonviolent cannabis crimes, allowing them easier reentry into society. Criminal justice reform that includes marijuana legalization will free up precious resources so our police forces are able to concentrate on serious crimes.
Cannabis is not without it risks and should be kept out of the hands of children and young people, just like alcohol. But my medical training has convinced me that cannabis is less of a health risk than many legal substances, including cigarettes and alcohol. State regulation will allow greater control over its use. The vape crisis last year was caused by black market products that contained toxic chemicals. The state regulates alcohol to ensure that consumers aren’t poisoned by the kinds of chemical concoctions that killed thousands of Americans during Prohibition. Even my opponent, a businessman who generally supports government deregulation, should understand the usefulness of government regulation here in the name of public health.
Our state generates tremendous amounts of tax revenue on the sale of alcohol products, and legalization can allow taxation of cannabis use as well, which lowers other taxes Minnesotans already pay. The black market cannabis economy gives us enforcement headaches without the revenue! Since recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado in 2014, the state has raked in well over a billion dollars in tax revenue. A billion dollars in six years is a lot of money. That’s a lot of potholes we could fill a little bit faster! And then there are the jobs: lots of them, for growers, sellers, chemists, you name it. At a time when many Minnesotans lost their jobs in the COVID crisis, legalization of marijuana could be a lifeline.
My opponent supports only medical use cannabis, which doctors like me know is another painful bureaucracy for already suffering patients to manage. The list of qualifying conditions is short, and registering is a hassle. A registration fee of $200 must be paid each year, and the products are limited and much more expensive than in recreational states. Opening up the market to recreational users will lower prices and change current state regulations, which will help patients.
As your Prior Lake and Jordan representative, I will support legislation that allows Minnesota to be the twelfth state to enact recreational cannabis legalization. It is rare that one act could benefit the intersecting causes of public health, criminal justice reform, and the state economy like this one!