What’s Going On?
Minnesota has a restrictive and punitive medical cannabis program that was designed to fail by law enforcement, meaning the majority of more than 500,000 Minnesotan cannabis consumers live in a Prohibitionist state where people remain at-risk of being criminalized for growing, possessing or selling cannabis, a relatively safe, nontoxic, healing plant. The reason prohibition is dying so hard is essentially due to for-profit policing motives within a government sponsored prison industrial complex. There are now nine states – Colorado, Washington State, Oregon, Alaska, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, California, and Vermont – with some form of adult personal use cannabis legalization. Vermont is the most recent state, and notably the only one that has legalized adult personal use and possession of cannabis through the traditional legislative process. Vermont is the only one of those nine states where there is no legal cannabis industry yet. Yes, cannabis possession and consumption are now legal in Vermont, but cannabis commerce remains illegal, unregulated and untaxed because Prohibitionists there prefer the illegal cannabis industry over the emerging legal cannabis industry that is so much safer. Minnesota law enforcement and state legislators also prefer the illegal cannabis industry despite how obviously dangerous it is.
In the first eight states with adult personal use laws, their voters had the opportunity to vote for #FullLegalization through an initiative process, which means in those states their citizens were able to create petitions, collect a required number of voter signatures (based on a small percentage of the voter turnout during their previous election), submit the signed petitions to their Secretary of State office for certification, and then scheduled placement of the proposed initiative law changes on a subsequent General Election Ballot. Unlike Minnesota, which has no initiative process, none of those states depended on their state legislators to put the question of full legalization on the ballot, which makes our path to full legalization much more complicated and difficult in the NorthStar State than in the forerunner cannabis ‘free states.’
Unfortunately, we know that Minnesota’s cannabis consumers cannot currently depend on our state legislators to fully legalize cannabis on their own any time soon because they collectively lack the political will. In other words, full legalization is not a priority at the Minnesota State Legislature now, and only 21 of the 201 Minnesota State Legislators currently serving have supported any of the four pieces of full legalization legislation that were introduced during the 2017 state legislative session. Generally, our State Legislators are deeply ignorant about the causes, costs, and consequences of prohibition, or the multiple imperatives for full legalization. Moreover, the staunch opposition from the law enforcement lobby, and the current lack of organization and passive support for full legalization among the more than half million Minnesota cannabis consumers, most of whom keep their support for full legalization private and apolitical, presents us with daunting circumstances to overcome in the Land of 10,000 Lakes if we’re ever going to end prohibition here. There are hundreds of thousands of non-consumers who support the concept of full legalization, but the people who are affected must stand up and speak out, we must get organized to represent our own interests because no one else will save us.
In Minnesota, State legislators (our lawmakers) are the only ones who can put the question of full legalization on the ballot for the voters to decide. Given the ignorance, indifference, and cowardice of most of our state legislators in the face of law enforcement opposition to full legalization, a constitutional amendment is arguably the most viable legislative path to full legalization anytime soon in Minnesota. We would need a simple majority, i.e. 51%, or 102 of our 201 Minnesota state legislators to vote to pass full legalization legislation such as #HF2714, or else we, the voters won’t be able to vote to #EndProhibition here. A constitutional amendment act would be veto proof, meaning that it couldn’t be vetoed by a Governor, and it wouldn’t require his/her signature to place the issue on the ballot. We could achieve our mission by organizing a statewide grassroots campaign to help pass House File 2714 (#HF2714), which proposes a Constitutional Amendment to voters (or ideally support even better full legalization legislation, if it gets introduced). This is the only way that we, the voters will ever get an opportunity to vote to legalize so-called ‘recreational marijuana’, or as our campaign prefers to call it, ‘adult personal use’ of cannabis in Minnesota.
The Republican Party (GOP) is united in their opposition to fully legalizing cannabis, which means that to date, the GOP is the party of prohibition. The Democratic Party (DFL) in Minnesota has full legalization on their official party platform / action agenda, but most DFL State Legislators are not yet supportive of full legalization, which means that to date they are mostly Prohibitionists. All four pieces of full legalization legislation that were introduced in 2017 were authored and co-authored by 20 DFL House Representatives, and 1 DFL State Senator [INSERT LINK TO LIST OF AUTHORS AND CO-AUTHORS]. Our current Democratic Governor Mark Dayton is a Prohibitionist, so even if we had a Democratic majority in the legislature that predominantly supported full legalization, a Prohibitionist Governor, Democrat or Republican, could and would most likely veto full legalization legislation. Four of the past five Minnesota Governors have served two four-year terms in office, so if we elect another Prohibitionist Governor like any of the GOP candidates or the DFL candidate, Rebecca Otto, then we’re unlikely to see full legalization legislation signed into law for at least another decade. Hence why we are working to influence the outcome of the 2018 Minnesota state elections so that we can elect State Representatives and a Governor who supports full legalization like DFL candidate, U.S. Representative Tim Walz. Minnesota State Senators are not up for election until 2020, which will be another election year for Minnesota State Representatives.
We must identify who is who among our 67 Minnesota State Senators and 134 Minnesota State Representatives, and lobby them accordingly. We must screen and endorse candidates for State Legislature and support the election of candidates who champion full legalization, and the election defeat of Prohibitionists. We must educate the public to advocate for passage of House File 2417 (or better legislation) so that we, the voters can decide to fully legalize cannabis in our state through a Constitutional Amendment. If we help create that opportunity, then our legislative campaign will shift into an electoral campaign in which we will organize a VOTE YES campaign to pass a ballot referendum during the next General Election after it’s passed through the legislature. This campaign will take at least two legislative sessions, if not several more, before we are likely to see any full legalization legislation passed through the Minnesota state legislature, and it’s unlikely to pass so long as there are Republican majorities in the House and Senate, because the Republican party has made an official commitment to opposing cannabis legalization as part of their party platform. We must be prepared to go the distance no matter how many years it takes because lives are at stake as long as prohibition continues, and many of our elders who have been fighting for full legalization for decades deserve to see it happen before they pass on from this life. Although our campaign is daunting, not easy, we are much closer than ever before to ending the war against cannabis consumers!
As we will repeatedly emphasize, our campaign is organizing Minnesotans in every state legislative district – 134 State House Districts in total – to individually and collectively demand that our state legislators #LetThePeopleDecide to #LegalizeItMN if they refuse to do it on their own in an acceptable manner and timeframe – we cannot wait indefinitely for a supposedly inevitable change that could take forever! We mentioned the general and fundamental political organizing and advocacy strategies above that our campaign will employ, but to be more specific, the following activities are how it will be done:
- Organize voters in every state legislative district to become full legalization activists
- Cannabis Count: Identity who is who in the Minnesota State Legislature
- Endorse candidates for Governor and State Legislature to influence election outcomes
- Influence public opinion to increase public support for full legalization
- Lobby our State Legislators accordingly