Committee discusses versions of legislature’s marijuana bills

Recreational cannabis goes to conference committee

Recreational cannabis goes to conference committee

Members of a legislative conference committee met for the first time on Friday regarding the legalization of recreational marijuana in Minnesota.

The meeting is the next step in the process of legalizing the drug.

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Previously, two versions of the same bill passed in the House and the Senate. The group has to work out the differences between the bills before a finalized bill can go to the governor to be signed into law.

In the House, members debated a bill for hours, tabled it, and then debated again the following day before the legislation passed by a vote of 71-59. Meanwhile, the senate bill passed by a vote of 34-33.

Friday’s meeting lasted less than half an hour but will have further meetings to work out the differences between the bills. The main differences center on the level of taxation and the amount of marijuana a person can possess and grow.

“This is a highly complicated bill … One thing I just wanted to point out for the conference committee’s awareness is that this conference committee actually doesn’t need to end our work when the Legislature adjourns this year. If we’re at the point where there’s still details that need to be worked out, this conference committee can remain open in the interim and actually submit our report to be taken up next year, next session,” Sen. Jordan Rasmusson (R-Fergus Falls) said, adding that he doesn’t want to rush the bill.

Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL-Coon Rapids), who chairs the conference committee, noted that option but responded that he “strongly disagrees with the idea that we would not finish this bill this year.”

“We had, just today, a poll released by KSTP showing 64% of Minnesotans want cannabis to be legalized. Minnesotans are ready for this change, our laws are doing more harm than good and every day we leave them in place, more harm is done, so we are going to deliver this bill for the people of Minnesota this year,” Stephenson said.

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