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Gov. Walz’s Plan To Legalize Marijuana is Overdue

Aiden Lutjen, staff writer

In recent years, the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana, both medical and recreational, has grown more and more widespread, with much of the general public accepting its usage. This positive movement made its way all around the United States, eventually reaching Minnesota. It’s long overdue that a big figure within this state would propose the plant’s legalization, and just that has finally happened.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz came forward with the rest of his supplemental budget on Jan. 26, revealing a hefty $25.2 million plan to fund a Cannabis Management Office with the ultimate goal being the complete legalization of marijuana by the year 2024. This comes as amazing news to advocates and supporters everywhere, for Gov. Walz has stated he’d sign such a bill into law, but hadn’t proposed it himself until now. This should definitely be celebrated, but we can’t get too excited just yet.

In 2021, the Minnesota House actually approved a bill to legalize marijuana, but it fell completely flat in the Senate, which is currently controlled by Republicans. As of writing this, all the Republican senators on the Public Safety Committee, where the bill will be mainly focused, say they are strongly against anything having to do with the legalization of weed. Despite this, legalization could bring good to the Minnesota population.

Some positives Walz himself pointed out, according to Bring Me The News, would include creating more jobs, expanding the Minnesota economy, the ability to regulate the industry to protect kids and allowing law enforcement to focus on violent crime. Further positives to legalization would include addressing especially significant issues that have received much more coverage and attention as of the last few years. One issue that proves to be extremely significant to the state would be that the proposed bill would include the expungement of nonviolent offenses involving marijuana. This isn’t even getting into all the other good legalization would do, like providing resources for substance abuse treatment and prevention, giving grants to individuals heading into the market and taxing sales, along with many others.

Taking a step back, let’s return to the topic of expungement. February is Black History Month, a strong and needed reminder that the Black community is prevalent and important to both the past and present. And we can’t celebrate the Black community without remembering the disproportionate amount of Black people in prison over marijuana. This is just the tip of the iceberg that is racism, and shows just how deep and far it goes into American society and government.

Ultimately, Black people are about four times more likely to be arrested over marijuana possession compared to white people, and this is all happening while Black and white people are using marijuana at nearly the same rates, according to the ACLU. Did you know that over 50% of drug arrests are also over marijuana, not other hard, dangerous drugs that actually pose a significant and severe risk to the public? And – get this – at the top of the list, Minnesota is about eight-and-a-half times more likely to arrest a Black person than a white person for marijuana possession. Let that sink in for a moment. If this is just over marijuana, what about everything else?

All in all, what I’m getting at here is that the legalization of marijuana in Minnesota is in the near future, I have no doubt about that. My main concern is how long we’ll have to wait and how many people will have to further endure loss before people in power start to realize that the pros to legalization far outweigh the cons. That’s not even an opinion at this point.