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Community Conversations about Cannabis

Jaclyn Harold
Updated: December 10, 2019 11:29 PM
Created: December 08, 2019 09:45 PM

(ABC 6 News)-- Minnesota could be next among states legalizing recreational marijuana. Just recently, Michigan became the eleventh state to do so.

Back here in our region, on Saturday night, the Be Heard on Cannabis group visited Rochester and held their eleventh event in their series of community conversations. Minnesota House of Representatives Majority Leader Ryan Winkler is a part of the event and has traveling with the group throughout Minnesota to hear what the people think about recreational cannabis use. Winkler says he also wants to know what laws residents feel comfortable with, if recreational marijuana is legalized.

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At the event held at the Rochester Community and Technical College's Heintz Center on Saturday, Winkler presented information about what's currently legal and not legal regarding cannabis in the state. Maren Schroeder, who is the Policy Director for Sensible Change Minnesota also presented information to the audience about the way medical marijuana programs are currently running.

After the informational portion of the meeting, representatives opened the floor to hear the community's take on the legalization of cannabis. 

One member of audience was vocal about his views. Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson expressed his thoughts and said he's speaking from the law enforcement's perspective. Previously, he spoke with ABC 6 News' Betsy Singer on the potential legalization of recreational marijuana and explained why this could have a major impact on traffic incidents. Torgerson says legalizing recreational marijuana could work against law enforcement's work to decrease criminal incidents related to cannabis, "Are we willing to accept the increase that we've worked so hard to bring down, the increase of traffic deaths in our communities, and across our state and then to see, as we are seeing in Colorado, to see those numbers start ticking back up again," said Torgerson.

On the other hand, those supporting the legalization of recreational cannabis argued that there isn't concrete proof that shows traffic accidents are being directly caused by the plant. Some even stating that the effects of marijuana are a lot different than the way alcohol impairs people.

One of the concerns raised was the underage use of the cannabis. Lawmakers at the event said there would be regulations to prohibit minors from using the products.

The meeting ended with Rep. Winkler assuring the community that these conversations aren't a final decision and that it's not a platform to change the minds of those on either side. Winkler reiterated that the purpose of the event is for law makers to get an idea of what residents think about the issue and take that information and consider them in creating solutions in the event legalization happens in the state.

Local representatives, Tina Liebling and Duane Sauke, also attended the event. Liebling and Suake say they are encouraging residents to reach out to them to continue sharing their thoughts about this issue.


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