Minnesota Legislature expected to debate Cannabis in next legislative session

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(ABC 6 News) – The Minnesota Legislature will begin a new session at the capitol a week from today. They’re expected to tackle topics like frontline worker pay, public safety, and the budget surplus. They’re also expected to debate legalizing marijuana. The Minnesota House of Representatives voted last year to pass a bill legalizing recreational marijuana use for adults. This year, they try and get it past the Senate.

Many in the state Senate, however, have not been open to legalization. Some Republicans say it would jeopardize public safety.

"It’s been well established — public safety will go down. We don’t have a way to do a screening on the roadside. We have no way for a trucking company to do a screening to make sure that it’s okay for the drivers to go out during the day," Rep. Paul Novotny (R- Elk River) said during a House debate.

Some believe legalizing marijuana will put it in the hands of youth. House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler says the bill recently passed in the House provides stricter regulation.

"Prohibition causes more problems than cannabis itself. We use a criminal justice system to enforce cannabis laws, and most people think it should be legal," Winkler said.

Actual hemp farmers in our area are worried more about evening the playing field between state-approved medical marijuana providers, and small businesses that sell CBD.

"Why are they being allowed to sell over the counter hemp products, CBD products, at the same time that the local hemp farmers are getting cease and desists for similar or the same products?" Jeff Brinkman, president of Superior Cannabis Company, said.

Legislators are aware of the issue

"We shouldn’t have a situation where Minnesota businesses can’t produce a product that is being sold in Minnesota right now," Winkler said.

Small cannabis farmers say the state needs to take action to protect Minnesota businesses.

"We don’t wanna be waiting on the supply chain coming from far away. We still need to be doing this stuff right here locally. Because, you know what, that’s what’s going to build our communities. That’s what’s going to build our families. That’s what’s going to build our state," Tom Cotter, vice president of Superior Cannabis Company, said.

Winkler says while CBD regulation is a separate issue to legalizing marijuana, the legislature still plans to discuss how to fix the issue in 2022.