Minnesota DFL challenges Legal Marijuana Now status ahead of 2024 election

Published 1:44 pm Wednesday, February 7, 2024

By Dana Ferguson

The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party filed a legal challenge Tuesday that aims to strip the Legal Marijuana Now Party of its elevated status ahead of the 2024 election.

In a petition filed with the Minnesota Supreme Court, DFL Chair Ken Martin said the Legal Marijuana Now Party came up short in 2022 and 2023 of meeting legal requirements for major parties. Those standards got higher under a law passed last year by the DFL-led Legislature. Both the state GOP and DFL supported it.

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The DFL and Legal Marijuana Now Party both have major party status now, along with the Minnesota Republican Party. That status provides benefits, including access to public campaign subsidies and an easier way for a party to invite national candidates to run in their  presidential primary contests.

Major party candidates also have a simpler path to the ballot in Minnesota. They can file by affidavit rather than having to collect and submit signatures on a nominating petition.

In his petition to the court, Martin said the party failed to host the required number of local conventions, set up party infrastructure or run enough candidates on the Legal Marijuana Now banner. He said Secretary of State Steve Simon should move to decertify the party as a result.

“The Legal Marijuana Now Party very clearly did not meet the requirements to qualify for major party status,” Martin said. “Every major party is expected to demonstrate that they are a serious organization by building their party and engaging voters in dozens of districts across Minnesota. The Minnesota DFL and the Minnesota GOP are the only two political parties that meet that threshold.”

Legal Marijuana Party Chair Dennis Schuller told MPR News that the challenge amounted to harassment against the party. And he said he had worked with the secretary of state’s office to comply with the new, heightened requirements for major parties.

“I feel confident that our diligence is in line with the new rules but the new rules do make it pretty much impossible, without a great amount of support, you know, to continue as a major party after this election,” Schuller said.

Martin said in a news release that voters who backed adult-use legal cannabis would have a home with the DFL. Democrats and a small number of Republicans in the Legislature voted to legalize cannabis for adult use, possession and home growing last year.

Legal Marijuana Now has held major party status since 2018. And it, along with now minority party Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party, have been blamed for pulling votes from DFL and GOP candidates in neck-and-neck races.

Schuller and his party fought against the change in requirements to maintain major party status. He said the stemming challenge didn’t come as a surprise.

“We’re an activist group trying to make a difference and get the word out that cannabis is not a crime,” he said. “So this specific challenge, I guess we just have to expect it. This is the political realm.”