MOORHEAD, Minn. — South Dakota, that bastion of liberal thought where hippies roam free, voted to legalize marijuana. Lawmakers in North Dakota, another center of progressive thought, see the future and will introduce legislation to make pot legal.
If you did not detect the sarcasm about the lefty tendencies of the Dakotas, let me be clear: The politics of the Dakotas are so far right they make Mike Lindell look like Bernie Sanders.
Yet those states are miles ahead of where centrist Minnesota is on the marijuana timeline.
It's time to legalize weed in Minnesota.
I say this not because I smoke marijuana (I've never used it) nor because I will start once it's legal (it will be eventually). I say it because it's obvious where the majority of the public stands on recreational marijuana and where this is headed.
Republicans in North Dakota, the second most-Trumpy state in the union that only eliminated Sunday-closing "blue laws" a couple of years ago, recognize it and are moving to legalize.
Yet Minnesota, because of Republican political selfishness, remains stuck in 1950.
Rep. Ryan Winkler is trying to change that. The Golden Valley DFLer says he will sponsor a bill for legalization. It's not about turning Minnesota into Woodstock; it's about creating a safe, regulated marketplace for marijuana. It's also about making the criminal justice system more just.
Part of the push for legal cannabis is to expunge criminal records for pot offenders. It's reasonable and fair.
The problem is that the state senate is controlled by Republicans, who oppose marijuana legalization. Their obstinance has little to do with their opposition to weed or any self-righteous moral arguments about the dangers of reefer madness.
It's politics. Period.
Republicans, instead of bowing to the will of the people, don't want marijuana legalized because it takes a political weapon out of their power-seeking hands.
As it stands now, illegal weed means third-party candidates under the "legalize marijuana" banner populate Minnesota's ballots and usually pull votes from DFLers. Republicans have been accused of recruiting pro-pot candidates to run for legislative seats, thereby increasing GOP chances of winning those races. It's worked in some cases.
So Republicans have no desire to see marijuana legalized because it removes a political advantage for them, as underhanded and shortsighted as it might be.
Yes 85% No 15%
Should Minnesota legalize recreational marijuana?
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Winkler believes that if recreational marijuana was put on the ballot for Minnesotans to vote on it in 2022, it would pass by a massive margin. He says this knowing there are downsides to legal weed, such as driving while high.
Winkler's right. Legal marijuana is one of the few issues that has bipartisan support in hyper-polarized 2021. It's not a Democrat vs. Republican issue. It's common sense one. People of all stripes look at the proliferation of alcohol and the shackles clamped on pot and ask "Why?"
If the state can regulate recreational pot and benefit from the tax dollars, why not legalize it?
That is a question Minnesotans have to ask senate Republicans who are using marijuana as a myopic political chip.
Readers can reach Forum News Service columnist Mike McFeely at (701) 451-5655