Independence Party candidates want to legalize marijuana

Published 7:14 am Wednesday, June 11, 2014

By Tim Pugmire

MPR News. 90.1FM

The Independence Party of Minnesota will try to remain a major party this year, largely with young candidates who are politically inexperienced and favor legalizing marijuana.

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Marijuana played a role in the party’s recruitment of Brandan Borgos, the Independence Party’s endorsed candidate for attorney general. He said party officials asked him to run for office and a factor in their consideration was his work as a board member for Minnesota NORML, the organization that lobbies for legalized marijuana.

“They wanted, in my opinion, to send a very, very strong message,” said Borgos, 32. “With the amount of people in the state who want some form of marijuana reform, they wanted to bring in someone who has a very, very good amount of information behind him, and then an organization too, that frankly is one of the biggest state chapters of the national organization.”

Other Independence Party candidates also are talking about reasons to legalize marijuana.

“Marijuana is producing a lot of revenue for Colorado right now,” said John Denney, a 28-year-old law school student who is running for congress in the Sixth District. “If you want to see more revenue in this state, that’s one really strong reason to look at legalizing marijuana, if you ask me.”

Denny said the war on drugs should be ended.

Hannah Nicollet, the IP candidate for governor, agreed. She thinks too many people are in jail for using marijuana or other drugs — a problem the IP addresses by including the full legalization of marijuana in its platform.

“Putting nonviolent people in cages is a detriment to society, and giving people a criminal record when it makes it harder to get a job and it doesn’t help them,” Nicollet said. “Even if somebody is an addict, something that’s really destructive, like somebody is a meth addict, I don’t see how giving them a criminal record helps that addict in any way. It should be treated as a social problem, not a criminal problem.”

Nicollet, 39, supported Republican Ron Paul’s presidential campaign two years ago and planned to run for the U.S. Senate before switching to the governor’s race. Her political resume pales in comparison to the IP’s previous three candidates for governor: former U.S. Rep. Tim Penny in 2002, Peter Hutchinson, a former state commissioner under the Perpich administration, in 2006 and former Republican Party strategist Tom Horner in 2010.

Horner said he does not yet know enough about Nicollet to comment on her candidacy. But he’s pleased to see more young people getting involved with the party that he still advises. On the marijuana issue, Horner has mixed feelings.

“I think it’s going to be an issue that probably on the whole is going to be a plus for the Independence Party,” Horner said.