Lawmakers in Minnesota aim to legalize, regulate, and tax a recreational cannabis market as soon as possible, according to two pieces of companion legislation introduced Monday in both the House and the Senate.
Senate File 619 is sponsored by Sens. Melisa Franzen (DFL-Edina) and Scott Jensen (R-Chaska). House File 420 is sponsored by Rep. Mike Freiberg (DFL-Golden Valley).
“Minnesota’s outdated prohibition policy has become more of a problem than a solution,” Freiberg said in a statement to Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “It is forcing marijuana into a shady underground market, which creates more potential harm for consumers and communities than marijuana itself. Regulating marijuana would make our state safer by removing the criminal element and empowering our state and local governments to start controlling production and sales.”
While the quantity is not specified, the legislation would permit Minnesotans 21 and older to possess and use cannabis recreationally. Dispensaries would be licensed to sell dried marijuana flower and other products like edibles, concentrates, and topicals. All retail products would be lab tested and taxed. Adults would also be permitted to cultivate their own plants at home, and certain marijuana arrest records would also be expunged under the proposed legislation.
According to lawmakers, possession and home cultivation for adults would be legal as early as 2020, and retail shops could open as early as 2022.
“At a certain point, it will become inevitable here in Minnesota,” said Rep. Mike Freiberg. “We have two options in front of us. One is to attempt to get in front of this issue and put strong public health protections in place. And the other is to wait and let it come to us.”
If a recreational marijuana bill makes it to the desk of Governor Tim Walz, he will likely sign it into law. “I support legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use by developing a system of taxation, guaranteeing that it is Minnesota grown, and expunging the records of Minnesotans convicted of marijuana crimes,” Gov. Walz Tweeted in August 2018.
Minnesota physicians are hesitant to accept medical cannabis as an option for treatment, according to a released study.
The survey, released by Minnesota’s Task Force on Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research (TFMCTR), surveyed the thoughts of 262 state-licensed doctors from four in-state facilities on the utility of medical cannabis.
The survey was conducted by TFMCTR member and Hennepin County Medical Center addiction specialist Dr. Charles Reznikoff. Reznikoff reported a number of reasons to explain Minnesota doctors’ ambivalence towards the newly legal treatment method, including the need for clearer qualifying conditions and the ongoing abuse by many people of opioids. “There is a lot of worry about the opioid thing,” Reznikoff stated.
Another reason why doctors have yet to come around to medical cannabis, according to the survey, is that many have not been given adequate education in the effects of the plant and the cannabinoid concentrates. As a result, many physicians have no particular interest in serving as advocates for the use of cannabis to treat medical conditions like epilepsy, cancer and Alzheimers disease.
“There is no ethical obligation for a provider to, on their own, adopt this,”
said Reznikoff. “This isn’t aspirin for heart attacks.”
The concern expressed by Reznikoff relating opioid addiction to medicinal cannabis contradicts studies which reveal that the use of medical cannabis may actually reduce opioid overdose related deaths by up to 25 percent, and that the combined use of the plant and pharmaceuticals does not increase the risk of substance abuse. Because cannabis remains a classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (defined as having no medicinal use in the United States), researchers have limited access to the plant for studies and many people, including physicians, remain uneducated and confused about its use despite the many published studies and anecdotical evidence.