High hopes for legalizing recreational marijuana in 2023

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The stars seem to have aligned for the passage of a bill in the Minnesota Legislature legalizing marijuana for recreational use by adults in 2023.

However, nothing at the Legislature is a sure thing even with one party in control of all major levers of government.

“Some form of legalization will occur,” predicts Carleton College political analyst Steven Schier.

However, what the final bill will look like is an open question.

“One question is how far do you go with legalization? Do you legalize it completely? Do you allow it to be private sector? Do you have it be run through the state government?” Schier said. “A whole bunch of specific questions here that have to be sorted out. And I think some of them will be pretty sticky questions for the Democrats.”

That’s because Democrats now control the Minnesota House, Senate and Governor’s Office, and most Democrats generally favor some form of legalizing recreational marijuana use.

The DFL-controlled Minnesota House passed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in 2021. However, Republicans controlled the Senate at the time and didn’t even give the legislation a hearing.

Now, with Democrats controlling the House and Senate, they also have a marijuana supporter in Gov. Tim Walz.

“It just make sense. Prohibition didn’t work. We have better regulation. We know what’s in these things —you know it’s adult use,” he said in a radio interview last month.

He also confirmed he told former Gov. Jesse Ventura he hoped to sign a bill legalizing marijuana in the 2023 session.

However, it will continue to face significant opposition from law enforcement, the trucking industry and safety advocates.

RELATED: KSTP/SurveyUSA poll: Majority of Minnesotans support THC edibles, recreational cannabis

“The trucking industry strongly opposes the legalization of recreational marijuana,” John Hausladen of the Minnesota Trucking Association said early in the 2022 legislative session. “We believe that doing so will make Minnesota roadways less safe.”

Minnesota Safety Council Executive Director Paul Aasen also spoke against the legislation earlier this year.

“Employers do not have an effective way to detect or judge or manage marijuana impairment,” Aasen said. “There is no simple blood-alcohol test like we’re used to for beer and whiskey and wine.”

Advocates of legalization are equally passionate about their cause.

“We’ve never had this much hope in all the years we’ve been fighting for this,” long-time marijuana legalization advocate Marcus Harcus told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS recently. ”We just want to make sure it’s done right. We need to equitably regulate it, reasonably taxed.”

The legislative session begins on Jan. 3.