Tensions Rise As Marijuana Legalization Bill Moves Forward
A bill to legalize recreational marijuana made another committee pit stop on Tuesday, this time passing through a committee chaired by DFL Rep. Ginny Klevorn of Plymouth.
The House State and Local Government Finance and Policy Committee passed HF 100 on a voice vote. The nearly two-hour hearing became contentious at one point when a roll call vote was held while a Republican committee member tried to continue discussing an amendment.
“The public is watching you, you should be embarrassed,” stated Rep. Jon. Koznick, R-Lakeville, while the vote was going on.
The marijuana bill, which is more than 300 pages long, would allow Minnesotans 21 and older to buy limited amounts of cannabis product. Consumers could buy up to two ounces of cannabis flower, eight grams of cannabis concentrate, and 800 milligrams worth of edible products at a time.
Under the bill, consumers would also pay a special 8 percent tax on cannabis products on top of the regular sales tax.
“Minnesotans are ready for this change. Our current laws are doing more harm than good,” said Rep. Zach Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, the bill’s chief author.
Stephenson says the one of main goals of the bill is to eliminate the illegal marketplace.
One amendment put forth would have set up a process for cities or municipalities to hold referendums on whether to prohibit businesses selling cannabis products in their locations. That amendment failed by a 7-5 vote.
“Looking at the experience of other states, in states that have allowed an opt-out… whole communities, whole counties to opt out of legal cannabis, it creates an avenue for the illicit market to continue and be successful,” said Stephenson.
Push for More Local Control
While not added to the bill yet, Stephenson assured committee members that there would be provisions on where businesses selling cannabis products could set up shop. For instance, there is expected to be a distance requirement away from schools, playgrounds and parks.
Golden Valley City Council member Gillian Rosenquist, who testified on behalf of the League of Minnesota Cities, stated there needs to be some sort of local control.
“The state should allow local governments to reasonably limit the number of retailers within our jurisdiction. Under the current bill, there’s no safeguard to prevent the board from issuing far more licenses than reasonable for a given city,” said Rosenquist.
Rosenquist discussed before the committee how the city of Golden Valley regulated THC products.
Police also raised traffic safety concerns based on what they’ve seen in other states.
“This will lead to more work for local law enforcement,” said Richfield Police Chief Jay Henthorne, who testified before the committee.
With Tuesday’s vote, the bill has now passed through five of 14 scheduled House committee stops.
Also See: Medical Marijuana Dispensary Coming to New Hope
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