Five Reasons Minnesota Voters Should Legalize Marijuana in 2018

state_marijuana_laws_in_2016_mapCitizens in Massachusetts, California, Maine and Nevada recently voted to join Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, the District of Columbia and Washington as states that have legalized the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Minnesota should be next.

Minnesota doesn’t allow citizen-initiated ballot measures, but the 2017 Legislature could put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment on the ballot, so
Minnesota voters could decide in November 2018 whether to legalize marijuana. Here’s why they should:

. Currently, Minnesota law assumes that marijuana is far more damaging than alcohol.  A mountain of research says otherwise.

Marijuana does create societal problems, such as risk of addiction and impaired driving. But research finds that the risks associated with marijuana pale compared to the risks our society very willingly accepts with legal alcohol products.

For instance, while the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) finds that 37,000 people per year die of alcohol abuse, none die from marijuana use. None.  Research also shows that marijuana is far less addictive than alcohol, and that the alcohol-related health costs are eight times higher than marijuana-related health costs.

cursor_and_cannabis_facts_for_canadians__essential_information_for_an_informed_debate_about_cannabis_policyGiven the facts, making alcohol legal and marijuana illegal makes absolutely no sense. Treating those two vices equally under the law will make Minnesota a more sensible and intellectually honest place.


LEGALIZED MARIJUANA WILL MAKE MINNESOTA MORE JUST. Marijuana prohibition has made Minnesota unjust. The New York Times describes the grotesque amount of damage that has been done by making marijuana use a crime and launching a multi-billion law enforcement war against it:

From 2001 to 2010, the police made more than 8.2 million marijuana arrests; almost nine in 10 were for possession alone. In 2011, there were more arrests for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes put together.

The public-safety payoff for all this effort is meager at best: According to a 2012 Human Rights Watch report that tracked 30,000 New Yorkers with no prior convictions when they were arrested for marijuana possession, 90 percent had no subsequent felony convictions. Only 3.1 percent committed a violent offense.

What makes the situation far worse is racial disparity. Whites and blacks use marijuana at roughly the same rates; on average, however, blacks are 3.7 times more likely than whites to be arrested for possession, according to a comprehensive 2013 report by the A.C.L.U.

Stop! This war on marijuana is destroying more lives than marijuana itself ever could. Legalization will  at long last end the madness.

LEGALIZED MARIJUANA WILL SAVE TAX DOLLARS.  Constantly chasing and punishing marijuana users and sellers has been extremely expensive for taxpayers. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), enforcing marijuana costs more than $3.6 billion per year.  That’s billion with a “b.”  Beyond saving tax dollars, legalized marijuana should be taxed, just as we do with alcohol, and generate revenue to address pressing community needs.

.  Minnesota has a medical cannabis law that authorizes the use of precisely dosed cannabis-based pills and oils.  These medicines are customized for each medical condition to limit or eliminate side-effects, such as the “high” sensation.  For instance, children with seizure disorders are able to use precise doses of a purified formulation of cannabis oil that has no intoxication side effects whatsoever.  Minnesota has a medically responsible law, and a Minnesota Department of Health study finds that about 90% of Minnesota patients are benefiting from these medicines.

But producing these medicines is expensive, and insurance companies don’t cover them. So, too many ailing Minnesota patients simply can’t access the medicines to get relief from their suffering. Accordingly, some of the state revenue derived from legalizing marijuana for recreational use should be dedicated to reducing the cost of the medicines, so suffering Minnesotans could get the help they desperately need.

cursor_and_prohibition_ends_-_google_searchLEGALIZED MARIJUANA WILL MAKE MINNESOTA MORE FREE. Finally, just as ending alcohol prohibition made America a more free nation, ending marijuana prohibition will make Minnesota a more free state. If marijuana was legalized, I probably wouldn’t use it. But if some in the “land of the free” want to use something that is demonstrably safer than legalized alcohol, a free society should allow them to do so.

So, enough with the sophomoric Cheech and Chong jokes.  From a purely good government standpoint, legalized marijuana will make Minnesota a more sensible, just, fiscally sound, humane and free state.  It’s time.

CORRECTION:  The original post did not list Maine, District of Columbia, Alaska, and Oregon.  Those states should have been included and were added after the original posting.

26 thoughts on “Five Reasons Minnesota Voters Should Legalize Marijuana in 2018

  1. This is underway, at least an attempt is being made to bring an amendment to the legislature, of course, with the fascist party in control there the chance of getting it onto the 2018 ballot is not promising. Now, having spent the last 40 years writing, speaking, campaigning, demonstrating, testifying, petitioning, picketing, and parleying for drug policy reform, especially for ending cannabis prohibition, I welcome all the people who want to keep the momentum going, to join the effort. Please take the trouble of checking out #MinnesotaMarijuana and #LegalMarijuanaNow which should take you to Facebook pages conducted by some of the Minnesota activists. There will be a MN NORML meeting next weekend with emphasis on contacting specific lawmakers. Any person who is serious about this is welcome to reach me directly at Our task is to build a broad base of community support, beyond stereotypical stoners–but also to get those too-often-uninvolved ordinary citizens to rise to the occasion.
    –Oliver Steinberg, St. Paul

  2. You have s major factual error in the first sentence of your article. Oregon, Alaska, Washington DC have all legalized already as well as Colorado, Washington State and most likely Maine (recount) ..
    Legalize it Minnesota! Prohibition has been a complete and total failure.

  3. As this blog points out, the most hopeful way to actually get to legalization in Minnesota would be by popular vote–that’s how the eight states and DC have accomplished it. In Minnesota, the only statewide plebiscite possible is a vote on a Constitutional Amendment, and that can’t be placed onto the ballot by citizens with a petition. It must be done by the Legislature. Therefore if you want it to happen, don’t sit back and wait for it—please contact your state senator and state representative now, before the session starts, and tell them to support an amendment to end cannabis prohibition. Let the people decide! I am meeting this week with at least one and possibly two lawmakers to prepare such an amendment, but we need as many other sponsors as we can get. Politicians just don’t realize that this is now a popular issue for them—that’s why you must make sure that they hear from you. They’re not reading this. Tell them about it!

  4. Never going to happen. Minnesota is simply to socially conservative and behind the times. Also there is way too much money in Prohibition for law enforcement via draconian civil forfeitures and lucrative federal drug war grants. Locking up nonviolent cannabis users is also big money for private prisons, police and prison guard unions, the rot gut alcohol industry and big pharmaceutical companies in Minnesota. The Police make the laws in this state. They don’t want to end the Prohibition gravy train. Minnesotans like the rest of the midwest are extremely obsequious and they will lay down on this issue as they always do. If you support ending the failure of Prohibition you will need to vote with your feet and yaxes and simply move away from Minnesota.

    • I mostly agree, Jack. But then again, I thought the same thing about gay marriage, and that changed much more quickly than I imagined was possible. Public attitudes on this issue also seem to be changing very quickly. If it could get on the ballot, I think there is a decent chance it could pass, but getting it through the Legislature to put it on the ballot is a definite challenge.

    • Gosh, Jack, that is so depressing. I hope you’re wrong, but I’m guessing you’re right at least for the time being. I guess I’ll have to keep breaking the law. PS I like your use of the word “obsequious.” I would have never thought to use it in reference to Minnesotans, but it’s actually quite good.

  5. It can’t get on the ballot. There’s not a single legislator seriously standing up and fighting for it in Minnesota. Not one. A constitutional amendment would need to be put forth to get it to a referendum vote. That is not happening and it never will. Minnesotans are much more socially conservative and obsequious than say people on the west coast. Much much more. Nanny State “liberals” and “faith and family” democrats like the Prohibitionist Klobuchar etc abound Miinnesota. They love to lord over other people’s lives. With democrats like that not a thing will happen. Honestly, Republicans in Washington State are more progressive than Minnesota Democrats on most issues. If you even bring it up most Minnesotans just freak out and call you names like “pothead” etc…then go home and drink their guts out and think nothing of it. If you want to be free to use cannabis safely and responsibly move to a state that has already ended the failure of Prohibition. Minnesota will never, ever legalize cannabis for responsible adult use. Mark my words! Nope. Instead the state will let the drug cartels run wild in our communities and neighborhoods and violently rule a very large and lucrative black market. All we get is cannabis in every school and every park and very large bill to pay for the failed drug war. That’s Minnesota for ya. Mired in the failed policies and ideas of yesteryear. Moving away is the only viable option other than banging your head against the wall over and over and over. Just move bit don’t use U-Haul. They unfortunately support cannabis Prohibition.

    • Jack, you are so emphatically certain of your analysis—but “never” is a long time. I’ve been speaking with and writing to legislators and have found a couple who want to move ahead with legalization. Sure, any bill will get nowhere in the next session, but just getting one introduced would be an important step. The politicians are afraid of the police lobby and other anti-reform forces, but the mood of the populace is swinging strongly in favor of repeal. I’ve spent the past 30 years campaigning, petitioning, and protesting for legalization, and believe me, things have changed. During the past summer’s campaign, we had police officers in uniform donating money and openly declaring their support; during the state fair in 2015 several uniformed National Guard members cheerfully took our “Legal Weed” stickers. This is unprecedented. Instead of saying “it’ll never happen,” why not join us and see if we can make it happen by pushing harder and more steadily until we force some cracks into the prohibitionist monolith? I constantly recite the words of Minnesota progressive Congressman C. A. Lindbergh: “Of all the cowards, no other is so cowardly as the average politician.” This is as true today as when he wrote it 100 years ago, but that is no excuse for us as citizens not to keep fighting for human rights and social justice.

  6. Oh I am onboard.
    I’ve been advocating for reform for decades as well. That said I gave up on the midwest 25 years ago. Life is too short to bang your head against the wall, much less risk arrest, fines, harrassment, mockery etc from a bunch of rot gut liquor drinking hypocrites. Not much has changed overall. Police still arrest and lock you up and ruin lives. I moved to Seattle to get away from this as a kid. It was well known as a reefer friendly place a long time ago. We had ganja bars in Vancouver BC and Seattle openly selling/consuming in the 1990’s! The police couldn’t have cared less. In 1993 I was at Hempfest in Madison WI. It became basically a hostile riot with police on horses menacing people, macing etc.. The next year I was at Hempfest in Seattle, same crowds, same scene, yet law enforcement were handing out Doritos. In 1994! Fact. My pessimissm is founded in reality. The midwest simply does not have a strong cannabis culture like the Northwest and West Coast have had for decades. It’s more of a rot gut liquor culture. Drunk driving isn’t even a criminal offense in Wisconsin but if you have a single cannabis bud you could very well do 6 months in jail and have a huge fine and be labeled a felon for life. No voting rights etc? That is pure tyrannical madness! But yet that is reality in tje midwest, day. Life is too short. Minnesota is better due to a lot of thoughtful foresight by progressives in the 1970’s who decriminalized but it still is wildly behind the times. In Washington State we legalized medical cannabis in 1998. That was 19 years ago! Minnesota just recently barely stuck a toe in, barely, sort of…well not really with its failing program. Avoid those propylyne glycol oils people!
    It’s truly sad. I say obsequious because it is a charactetistic I find particularly strong in midwesterners. It is only magnified by a uniform or state ID. Until people truly stand up for what amounts to basic civil rights the state will continue to be mired in the failed policies and ideas of yesteryear. Life is too short to waste on backwards regressive places like Minnesota. The wisest thing I ever did, in general but also in terms of cannabis reform was leave the midwest. Life is too short to not be free.

    • I certainly respect your right to “vote with your feet” and move to a state that has the sense to end marijuana prohibition. I wish you all the happiness in the world.

      But I’m going to stay and fight to keep more young Minnesotans from having their lives wasted for no good reason.

      I agree with you that it’s a difficult fight in a state like MN. I’ve lived in Oregon and DC, and understand the cultural differences. But I love MN and want it to be a more just place for my kids and grandkids, so I’m in the MN fight for the long haul.

  7. Well God bless ya for it! Keep fighting the good fight! Just remember it’s pretty hard to advocate when you are locked in a cage or have had your home and life savings stolen due to awful civil forfeiture laws in Minnesota as well as the other myriad of problems you could be sidled with, fines, criminal record etc. Babylon will show you no mercy. None at all. I did my part advocating for it 20 years ago in a place where it actually resonated. Now we have a safe, legal, regulated industry and we emptied our jails and are investing in schools and infrastructure with the hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes from the billions of dollars we took back from the drug cartels. It’s a win/win for sure.
    Please be careful and don’t get your hopes up in Minnesota lest they be dashed. Law enforcement and the aforememtioned powerful special interest groups are not onboard at all and they make the laws in Minnesota. Not the legislature nor the People. If you can’t even get Democrats onboard, even though they added ending Prohobition to their party platform, well then you have your work cut out for you. The worst partbof it for me is that Prohibition breeds discord between people and communities and law enforcement and our own government. That is a true travesty and shame. I’ll take our WA State approach over perrenial discord in Minnesota anyday. That said, feel free to post those legislators names who are supposedly going to put forth an amendment. I’ll write and support it.
    Melissa Sargent in Wisconsin has put forth multiple bills over the last several years in Wisconsin. Not one has even gotten a vote. I expect the same in Minnesota.

    • Jack, thanks for your past efforts and present concern. Yes, I’ve been in prison; I know the weapons with which the system is equipped, and I certainly know the obstacles we face in Minnesota since I watched from 1991 to 2014 as we worked to get a medical cannabis law adopted, only to see it re-written at the last moment by the very lobbyists who opposed it, to make the resulting law as weak, as expensive, and as impractical as possible. My advocacy in this cause (all human rights causes, of course, are inter-related) goes back to 1968, and my archives preserve a record of decades of trying to combat the narco-police state and the atmosphere of fear and irrationality it engenders. And yet I refuse to give up. Moving to another state or country isn’t a practical solution for someone of my age and circumstances, anyway, although of course my grandparents DID leave the Russian empire and emigrate here to the golden land, which must have taken courage and faith.
      Regarding Wisconsin: Kudos to Melissa Sargent (her predecessor Fred Risser was a great guy in every way except he refused to support legalization because “I don’t approve of smoking anything” as he told me.) Actually, Assemblyman Lloyd Barbee spoke up for legalized marijuana back in the 1960’s, as I recall. Just because one doesn’t get a hearing doesn’t mean one shouldn’t raise the issue. It always has to be a step-by-step process. The steps are agonizingly few and far between, but when change does come it may come swiftly, as in Washington, Oregon, Calif., etc. (but even the recent progress there arose after decades of agitation and persistent political efforts.)
      Our task in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, etc., is to devise a political strategy suitable for states without the ballot initiative petition process–which is about 1/2 of the states. It’s worth persevering at! I think it isn’t the prohibitionists who truly stop us. It’s really our own rank-and-file. Some people imagine that legalization is “inevitable” and will happen magically without any effort; and others say, “It’ll never happen so why should we bother to try?” And still others are lacking any basic sense of citizenship or elementary knowledge of how laws are passed or changed. There’s work to do. Lend a hand! I expect to persuade a legislator or two to at least make some public statement quite soon. State Rep. Rena Moran already spoke at a NORML rally in the Capitol rotunda back in 2013, and State Rep.Tina Liebling spoke at the April 20th “Freedom Day” event near the Capitol last year. State Sen. Scott Dibble was the chief sponsor of the watered-down medical cannabis bill and he ought to be aware of the pitfalls of prohibitionism. State Rep-elect Ilhan Omar told Southside Pride newspaper that she supports legalization, as did State Rep. Susan Allen. State Reps. Alice Hausman, Carlos Mariani, and Karen Clark were all supporters of medical marijuana bills in the early 1990’s, and certainly aren’t fooled by reefer madness nonsense. Rep. Hausman helped organize a drug policy study group 20 years ago. Many of the legislators went to the national conference of state legislators in Seattle in 2015, and they tell me the presentation seminars on legal weed were well-attended! So you asked for the names of some lawmakers to contact; why not start with any or all of these?
      I’ve written personally to these and over a dozen other legislators. Add your voice. Think of the old “Alice’s Restaurant” effect . . .

  8. Thank you Oliver for your response and all your past efforts. 35 years ago I grew up on my father’s cannabis farm in the midwest before I even knew what it was. I was tormented and bullied my whole childhood by the other kids for being a “druggy’s kid” etc. My father was a kind good man but he broke the law I know. In the end that didn’t end well for my dad. Rumor is he paid off the judge to get out of prison, and then I never saw him again. I’m 42. I heard he died last year in Floridam Prohibition ruins lives. It is far more deleterious to the individual and society than cannabis itself ever has been or ever will be.
    It’s heartening to know other people like yourself are out there. I recently contacted Rep. Melin. I believe she was involved with the medical cannabis bill as well correct? I have also contacted Dayton, Ellison, Franken and a few other local representatives as well over the years but have never received a response. I will contact the other representatives you mentioned now as well. Maybe I’ll even get a response? In Washington State we had LEAP as well as Police Chief Norm Stamper and then Gil Kerlikowski (both of whom I met personally on a few occasdions at my coffee shop) on our side standing up against Prohibition. I don’t see any major law enforcement officials like Stanek or Harteau ever coming around in Minnesota sadly. That doesn’t bode well. We also had the Seattle DA, mayor, city council and many other elected officials, both democrats and republicans onboard. I don’t see that in Minnesota at all either. Also, I am not sure even if, against all odds it was put up for a referendum vote that a majority of Minnesotans would vote for it anyways though. Especially if law enforcement and their entrenched special interests addicted to the cash flow from civil forfeitures and lucrative federal drug war grants are against it, and they most certainly are and will be. That old midwest obsequiousness may thwart that effort in the long run anyways. And then there’s the elephant in the room, Trump, Jeff Sessions, Tom Price etc…The situation could be dire shortly for everyone.
    I still own a beautiful home and property in the midwest which I maintain and pay taxes on but which due to Prohibition I never use, visit or enjoy It just sits empty and rots. In my heart I am a good midwest boy and I don’t like black markets or breaking laws. Perhaps someday Minnesota may end Prohibition and peaceful, hard working, tax paying citizens will be afforded basic civil rights in the state and not be treated as criminals, pariahs, children or second class citizens? I doubt I will ever live to see the day but as you say we can still try. If that day ever comes I will move back home.

    • I appreciate your heartfelt response, Jack. Yes, prohibition ruins lives, wrecks neighborhoods, encourages crime/corruption/violence/addiction. This is vividly true to me, not just a recitation of slogans. And although we have had LEAP’s executive director and assistant director speak here, but haven’t found any local spokespersons from law enforcement. Yet. The vulnerable ones would be the ones who are elected–sheriffs and county attorneys. That will be one of the potential strategies for people in non-initiative states to focus on. In the end, if we are to get reform in some version which we would like it to be (not just as corporate cartels as in the 2015 Ohio proposal), it will require using the ballot box. That’s how progress was made elsewhere, starting in San Francisco with Prop P in 1995 and California with Prop 215 in 1996. At this point, the legislature is a sideshow, because as you correctly allude to, the incoming national gangster administration, riddled with prohibitionists and trigger-happy lawmen, brings a threat and a challenge that dwarfs all the local maneuvering. Still, we will keep gnawing away here because after all, here we are. And if nobody is trying, then it becomes certain that nothing will happen.

  9. Thanks again Oliver for the legislator’s names. I contacted each and everyone and asked them to help end Prohibition.! Thanks to Joe as well for writing this article and allowing this forum. I truly appreciate it. Any further articles and follow ups will be greatly appreciated. Now more than ever we need to come together and stand up for what’s right in our country! Happy New Years to all!

    • Here’s some more names of MN legislators who certainly ought to hear from the public on the compelling need to end prohibition of cannabis (and other outlawed molecules): State Sen. Sandra Pappas, State Rep. Raymond Dehn, State Senator Bobby Joe Champion, State Senator Richard Cohen, State Rep. Dave Pinto, State Rep. Peggy Flanagan; State Rep. Jennifer Schultz, State Sen. Erik Simonson, State Sen. Carolyn Laine, State Rep. Jim Davnie, State Rep. Jean Wagenius, State Rep. Frank Hornstein, State Sen. Kari Dziedzic, and of course State Rep. Paul Thiessen.
      These folks need to be reminded that cannabis reform plebiscites have often outpolled elected politicians in recent elections; this past November 8, voters in 3 out of 4 states approved personal-use legalization and in five other states–including Florida, North Dakota, Arkansas, and Montana–voters enacted medical cannabis laws far more liberal and less restrictive than Minnesota’s 2104 law.
      The people are ahead of the politicians, that’s our message.

  10. I noticed the Representatives listed seem to all be DFL. Is that enough anymore? Does anyone know if there are any “libertarian” leaning Republicans or Independents who one might contact as well? As referenced above, a lot of Representatives in states like Alaska, Colorado and Washington State who supported ending Prohibition were not Democrats. They were Independents and libertarian leaning Republicans. It makes sense as it is actually intellectually consistent for Republicans to support ending Prohibition when one considers the matter from a perspective of embracing individual liberty and responsibility vs more big government bureacracy and nanny state intrusion…or embracing fiscal responsibility vs raising taxes or borrowing and passing the debt to future generations…or embracing states’ rights…avoiding government waste…as well as embracing the free market vs the black market. These are all limited government positions, some may say “Republican” which can and should be in my opinion applied to the subject of ending the diastrous failure of cannabis Prohibition in Minnesota.

    • Chuck, there was one libertarian-leaning GOP state senator, who was OK on prohibition and willing to say so, but he resigned. If there are any others, they’d be welcome to help out. However, with GOP representative Tony Cornish, a die-hard reeferphobe, in the House and State Senators Bill Ingebritsen and Julie Ortmann holding sway, the Republican party is definitely in thrall to the narco-fascists in Minnesota. No independents in the legislature in this session.

  11. Well,this is just the first year of a two-year session. We can — and I for one intend to try — start the conversation, and move it ahead with introduction of a bill. If there are zero Republican sponsors, they are missing the boat. The GOP leadership is dead-set against reform but possibly some of their people might notice that public opinion has shifted on this issue. Whether progress is possible at the Capitol is secondary–the main challenge is to build a popular movement which will promote reform in an ongoing, organized way. So far, the advocates of legalization have failed to build a coalition of committed supporters. And legalization won’t happen by magic or by inertia!

  12. It will never get to a vote. Nevada is nice and warm and I won’t be treated like a criminal or second class citizen anymore. Good luck in MN. I’m moving!

  13. Sad day when you have more freedom in Canada than USA. I contacted dome reps in MN by the way. They aren’t going to support any legslization efforts, demsvot repubs. Sad.

    • Please let us have the names of those Dems who refused to support legalization, we’ll start now to recruit primary opponents for them.

  14. Nobody responded in support except Alice Hausman. She is a wise thoughtful lady! The rest have not responded. Minnesota is probably going the other way I hate to say. The state seems determined to double down on its discriminatory, bordering on Jim Crow laws. Not very “progressive” Minnesota. Shame on the state!!

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