Minnesota became the 23rd state to fully legalize marijuana on Tuesday when Democratic Governor Tim Walz signed a bill legalizing recreational cannabis use.
“We’ve known for too long that prohibiting the use of cannabis hasn’t worked,” Walz said in a statement. “By legalizing adult-use cannabis, we’re expanding our economy, creating jobs, and regulating the industry to keep Minnesotans safe. Legalizing adult-use cannabis and expunging or resentencing cannabis convictions will strengthen communities. This is the right move for Minnesota.”
In Minnesota, adults 21 and older may now possess up to 2oz of marijuana in public and 2lbs at home. It will also automatically expunge low-level cannabis convictions, and felony cannabis convictions will all receive reviewal by a specially created board to potentially expunge or resentence. Lawmakers note that this process will take time, and will likely be completed by August 2024.
Minnesota Democrats had previously sought to legalize marijuana in the state, but were held up by state Senate Republicans. Following last year's midterms, Democrats gained control of the Senate and maintained control of the House. They have since passed a number of progressive measures, such as codifying abortion access into law.
According to an October 2022 survey from the Pew Research Center, 59 percent of Americans believe recreational marijuana use should be legalized. In a 2021 PRC survey, 61 percent of adults favored releasing people in prison for marijuana related offenses.
Jessamyn Stanley, cofounder of We Go High, a North Carolina-based cannabis justice initiative fighting to legalize and decriminalize marijuana, previously told The Advocate Channel that ending the stigma against cannabis use comes through both legalization and decriminalization, through policies such as Minnesota's.
"Legalization is really about bringing cannabis to the plant itself, to different markets. It's really an issue. It's an economic issue. In a lot of ways," she explained. "Decriminalization is a justice issue. It's about making sure that people who use cannabis do not have to fear for their safety, their livelihoods."
Stanley added: "I don't believe that incarceration should be at all a response to it, [or] should be even be a part of the cannabis conversation. I think that cannabis is a plant that is in the same category as coffee or tobacco. While it is a commodity, it's not something that needs to be used as a part of the justice system."