MN Republicans call for special session to halt cannabis legalization

Since recreational cannabis was signed into law in Minnesota on May 30th, many communities are...
Since recreational cannabis was signed into law in Minnesota on May 30th, many communities are navigating the different rules and regulations pertaining to its sales.(Dakota News Now)
Published: Jul. 28, 2023 at 6:33 PM CDT
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ST. PAUL -- 20 Minnesota House Republicans penned a letter to legislative leaders and Governor Tim Walz on Friday, urging the state to hold a special session regarding cannabis.

Possession of the drug is set to become legal next Tuesday, Aug. 1.

Friday, a letter from Minnesota State Republicans laid out concerns over the state’s new cannabis laws. The letter details certain elements of the law that Republicans took issue with.

Two of the issues were brought up during the regular legislative session. One of those was a push for local control on whether cannabis can be sold in a city. The other was a call to close the gap between the time cannabis is legalized and the time legal sales will begin.

The main issue presented in the letter, however, is a new one.

GOP Representative Peggy Scott (R-Andover), who authored the letter, emphasized that the bill should contain penalties for possession for minors.

“I don’t think it’s the right message to allow no consequences to underage kids who possess,” said Scott.

Scott’s claim that the law contains no consequences for kids isn’t necessarily accurate.

The letter begins: “We write to express deep concern with recent news stories suggesting that House File 100, a top priority for Minnesota Democrats, effectively legalized marijuana for children.”

The “news stories” in question are likely referring to an article published by MinnPost earlier this week. Initially, the article seemed to suggest that there were no penalties for minors under the new law.

A later correction to that same article clarified that existing state statute still makes it a petty misdemeanor for minors to possess the drug.

A note now at the top of the article reads:

An earlier version of this story and headline have been replaced after new information came to light about default penalties that exist in Minnesota for statutes that don’t expressly define them. As such, it appears law enforcement in Minnesota could cite someone under 21 years of age possessing or using marijuana with a petty misdemeanor. For transparency, MinnPost’s original story — containing incorrect information from multiple sources — has been left intact at the bottom of this story.”

Under already-standing state law, possession and distribution of cannabis to minors is illegal, something which will not change with the new law.

Even though MinnPost clarified their article, Scott said she stands by her argument that penalties are not harsh enough.

“[A petty misdemeanor] is not going to act as a deterrent of any kind for these, these minor kids. So that’s, that’s my concern. It’s not a stiff enough penalty for young people,” she said.

Only the Governor can declare a special session, and it seems unlikely that Tim Walz will entertain the idea.

Spokespeople with the governor’s office issued the following statement Friday: “It’s illegal for minors to use marijuana today and it will be illegal for minors to use marijuana after this law goes into effect. Any minor caught consuming or possessing marijuana could be charged with a petty misdemeanor, and any adult caught selling marijuana to a minor could be subject to jail time. This group of Republican legislators should stop implying otherwise.”

Senator Lindsey Port (DFL - Burnsville) who authored the bill in the Minnesota Senate, issued a statement Friday as well, decrying the GOP’s framing of the issue as dishonest:

“Prohibition of cannabis has failed to keep cannabis out of the hands of young people, ensure a well-regulated product, or make our communities safer. The legalization of adult-use cannabis was the culmination of decades of thoughtful work by advocates, experts, and legislators. With over 60 hours of committee input including dozens of GOP amendments, this bill allows adults to responsibly use cannabis, invests in community resources through local tax revenue, and begins to unwind the racist and damaging results of criminalization. To insinuate that this legislation in any way supports, promotes, or encourages the use of cannabis by children is as reckless as it is foolish, and is simply wrong: beginning on August 1, possession of adult-use cannabis will be legal for Minnesotans 21 and older.

Criminalizing and incarcerating young people for cannabis possession is neither a deterrent nor a path that helps teens to avoid graver consequences later in life. Every state that has legalized adult-use cannabis has seen an increase in the age of first use of cannabis and a decrease in the frequency of use by teens as cited in the Cannabis Legalization and Public Health Outcomes study of 2022. Minnesotans asked for action, and the DFL trifecta responded by ending the policy of criminalizing cannabis possession and implementing methods that work to decrease use, like millions of dollars in youth peer-to-peer education, public service information about driving while intoxicated, and unprecedented investments in prevention, treatment and recovery resources. Additionally, with the passage of HF 100, the penalty for possession by an individual under 21 is a petty misdemeanor, despite Republican misinformation that there is no possible legal consequence.

While decriminalizing many aspects of cannabis use, some of the strictest legal penalties in the bill exist for those who sell to minors. Criminalizing young adults for possession maintains a cycle of harm, while aggressively going after those who illegally sell potentially unsafe products, especially to minors, provides the strongest path to eliminating the illicit market. A legal market, with age verification, testing, labeling, and education requirements is the best path forward for Minnesotans, and that’s exactly what HF 100 does. DFL legislators listened to Minnesotans and we stand by our work to deliver for you this year.

A call for a special session on this issue is outrageous and is simply an attempt to use fearmongering and misinformation to stall the implementation of this bill. I encourage residents of Minnesota to follow along at for accurate and useful information.