Legislature fails to act on bills to legalize and regulate cannabis
Last update: June 9, 2019
In November 2018, Minnesota voters elected a new governor — Tim Walz — who supports legalizing and regulating cannabis for adults. While his election brought some new hope, it has not yet translated into action. Bills were introduced in both the House and Senate to legalize and regulate cannabis for adults’ use, but none advanced out of committee before the legislature adjourned in May.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) has said the Republican caucus is strongly opposed, and the bill would not pass the Senate.
A successful campaign will require a sustained lobbying and organizing effort, as was the case for medical cannabis It’s crucial that lawmakers hear that their constituents want them to end the disastrous war on marijuana. Use our free, automated system to send an email to your state legislators.
You can also check out our allies at Minnesotans for Responsible Marijuana Regulation.
Minnesota’s medical marijuana program expands, but remains flawed
In 2014, then-Governor Mark Dayton signed into law a medical marijuana program after insisting on modifications that made it extremely restrictive and that drive up the costs of medical cannabis.
After the first year of the program, 92% of patients reported some benefit from their treatment, and 67% reported a great deal of benefit. However, more than half of the patients who registered and made purchases within the first six months stopped purchasing medical cannabis from dispensaries by the end of 2016. In the same survey, 86% of patients reported that they found medical cannabis to be at least somewhat unaffordable, with 29% reporting prices as very prohibitive.
Local advocates, often with assistance from MPP, have petitioned the Minnesota Office of Medical Cannabis to add qualifying conditions. As a result, the program has slowly expanded. The office added intractable pain in 2015, PTSD in 2016, and obstructive sleep apnea and autism in late 2017. It is currently considering adding opioid use disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, Hepatitis C, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, panic disorder, psoriasis, and traumatic brain injury.
Despite these improvements, Minnesota’s program still has serious limitations, including that it is the only operational medical program that does not allow patients to access and use marijuana flowers. Instead, the state only allows extracts and other preparations, which are more costly and which many patients find do not work as well. Another issue that leads to shortages and high pricing is that there are only two businesses licensed to provide medical marijuana in the state.
In order to better serve the patients of Minnesota, the legislature and department should work together to add access to flower and to license additional businesses.