Walz says Minnesota Legislature could legalize pot in 2023

Published 6:22 pm Friday, November 11, 2022

ST. PAUL — The chances for legalizing recreational marijuana in Minnesota got a huge boost from the Democratic sweep in the state’s elections, and Gov Tim Walz confirmed Friday that he told former Gov. Jesse Ventura that he thinks it could be one of the first bills he signs in the new year.

The Republican majority that blocked consideration of cannabis in the Senate will be gone when the 2023 Legislature convenes in January, when Democrats will hold the trifecta of controlling both chambers as well as the governor’s office. But lawmakers are just starting to get organized after the election and the details have yet to be worked out. Twenty-one other states have approved the recreational use of marijuana.

Ventura, who supported legalization when he served from 1999-2003, disclosed on his podcast earlier this week that Walz had called him up the day after his reelection and said he now expected it to pass. Ventura, an independent who doesn’t usually make endorsements, backed Walz over Republican Scott Jensen.

“That was one of many reasons why I endorsed Gov. Walz,” Ventura told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis on Friday. “He would legalize cannabis, whereas Republicans are the ones stopping it.”

Interviewed on WCCO Radio on Friday, Walz confirmed the conversation and indicated that Ventura will be invited to the signing ceremony because Ventura was one of the first governors across the country to support legalization.

“It’s only fair. Gov. Ventura did bring this up, pretty much before any governor in the country did,” Walz said.

Walz has long been a supporter of legalizing recreational marijuana for adults. The Democratic-controlled House passed a legalization bill in the 2021 session with several Republicans voting yes, but the GOP-controlled Senate never gave it a vote.

“It just makes sense,” Walz said. “Prohibition didn’t work, we get better regulation, we know what’s in these things, it’s adult use, so I just mentioned that I think it would be important to recognize him, ask him if he would be there when we get this done.”

The Legislature this year did pass a bill legalizing THC in edible or drinkable form if it’s derived from hemp rather than full-strength marijuana. Many lawmakers apparently didn’t realize what they were doing as it sailed through under the radar. Low-strength gummies and beverages have been on sale since July. Minnesota’s restrictive medical marijuana program was expanded in March to allow smokable cannabis instead of just extracts and solid forms as before.

Voters in Maryland and Missouri approved recreational cannabis Tuesday, while on Minnesota’s borders, voters in North Dakota and South Dakota joined Arkansas in rejecting it.

North Dakota’s proposal would have allowed people 21 and older to legally use marijuana at home as well as possess and cultivate restricted amounts of cannabis.

South Dakotans, including a sizable number of Republicans, voted to legalize marijuana possession in 2020, but that law was struck down by the state Supreme Court in part because the proposal was coupled with medical marijuana and hemp. This year, recreational pot stood by itself on the ballot when it went down to defeat.

About 6 in 10 voters support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana nationwide, according to VoteCast, an extensive survey of more than 90,000 voters nationwide conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.