4/20 +8  =  Beginning of the end of prohibition in Minnesota!

            The State Senate in St. Paul voted on April 28, 2023, to pass the SF73/HF100 bill, which is described as “legalizing recreational cannabis use” in Minnesota.  It passed the House of Representatives earlier in the week by a vote of 71 to 59.A committee will reconcile the two versions, and then both Senate and House will vote on it again.  After that, the bill would go to Governor Tim Walz, who has promised to sign it.

            When that happens, Minnesota will join two dozen other states and territories with laws allowing persons 21 years of age or older to possess and consume psycho­active strains of canna­bis, without the risk of arrest and/or property forfeiture.

           Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party legislators nearly all supported this reform, and the Repub­lican legislators nearly all rejected it.  In the Senate, all 34 DFL senators voted “Yes,” and all 33 Republican senators voted “No.”   Next year, in the 2024 election, remember that!

            Passing this bill is necessary but not sufficient.   A careful look shows that the prospective law isn’t much better than “Prohi­bition Lite.”   The right to enjoy legal cannabis won’t include 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old adults–thus continuing to criminalize college students (renowned ganja smokers) and therefore guaranteeing that an illicit traffic in cannabis will continue.   The bill requires licenses for selling the products of farms and gardens, directly violating Article 13, Section 7, of the Minnesota State Constitution.  In fact, the bill sets up a ridiculous bureaucracy with an absurd web of over a dozen required licenses for various aspects of the production, sale, and distri­bution of cannabis and cannabis derived products.

            This new law still lists dozens of cannabis possession, cultivation, and sales crimes, and also imposes excessive taxes, and demands totalitarian high-tech monitoring systems and other wasteful red-tape requirements.   Evidently, the goal of whoever designed the Minnesota bill was to promote commercial cannabis businesses in our state, catering to an expanding catalog of niche-specialty entre­preneurs, all jealously coveting their own statutory privilege to extract a steady transfusion from the consumer’s wallet.   The public will be forced to pay artificially inflated prices for legal cannabis products, to defray the immense regulatory and “security” restrictions written into the new law.    One predictable result is that unlicensed vendors will be marketing similar products at lower prices.  The criminal mayhem that the current prohibition laws engender would continue to menace Minnesotans, from the slums to the suburbs.

            Legalization can and should curtail the illicit market–but that really depends on whether or not the legal products carry a price tag that’s too far above their actual value.  Customers willingly pay a premium for convenience, purity, even packaging . . . but not for steep taxes, paranoid “security” proto­cols, self-serving bureaucrats, and other extraneous expenses.  Without the police-state narco-mark-up, cannabis wouldn’t cost much at all.  It’s a plant, and grows like a . . . weed.

            Let’s all celebrate the loosening of prohibition’s slimy shackles.  Then let’s rededicate our­selves to improving this far-from-perfect new law.  The Grassroots Party should continue to serve a constructive political purpose–striving to truly restore justice, to revive the spirit of freedom and liberty, to unify our people and heal our planet, and to re-establish our Constitutionally-protected Farm and Garden Rights.

            Finally, federal law still lists “marijuana” as a Schedule 1 “Controlled Substance,” so any and all state legalization laws are legally imperiled and could be canceled tomorrow if the federal government “got tough.   We the people have won a playoff in St. Paul, but the Super Bowl will be in Washington, D.C.!


            The Star Tribune refused to print this article submitted to their opinion page in December, 2022:


         The Tragic Treadmill of Prohibition.


           Since 2012, fourteen states have voted “Yes” on ballot measures to end cannabis prohibition.  

           Seven more states, lacking the Initiative option, have re-legalized cannabis by legislative action, thanks to Democratic Party majorities.  Like those seven states, Minnesota’s laws are crafted in the Legislature, not by plebiscite.

            When the 2021 legalization bill reached a floor vote in St. Paul, 94% of the “yes” votes came from Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party legislators, while 90% of the “no” votes were from Republicans.  The Republican State Senate blocked the bill.

            The DFL will organize both chambers in the forthcoming legislature, so a legalization law might possibly pass in 2023.  Retiring State Representative Ryan Winkler hopes Minnesota’s lawmakers will enact “the best cannabis legislation in the nation.”  

            They might revisit 2021’s House File 600, a comprehensive starting model, and improve it by adopting useful elements from South Africa’s “Fields of Green” proposal.  

            However, in the complicated, strung-out legislative process, bills can be sidetracked in dozens of committees, or vivisected during a floor debate.  Therefore, it’s helpful to define the minimal features of a just, progressive, responsible cannabis policy:

            First, recognize the right to home-grow; Second, erase past records of all nonviolent “marijuana” offenses or violations; Third, release current nonviolent cannabis prisoners.

             As Mr. Winkler witnessed, a clear majority of people participating in his statewide “Be Heard On Cannabis” town meetings expressed by show of hands their endorsement of applying to cannabis gardeners the rights enshrined in Article 13, Section 7 of Minnesota’s Constitution, notwith­stand­ing casuistic court decisions wrongly construing that Section.

            The cartel-centered Medical Cannabis law concocted in 2014 is a reminder of legislative pitfalls to avoid.

            Anti-legalization zealots still strive to deflect the debate towards alleged hazards to health and public safety, which they attribute to cannabis consumption. 

            But far greater harm to public health and civic safety stems from the nature of prohibi­tion, not from the nature of the herb.  The problem is in the law, not the leaf.

            Remember the unintended consequences of alcohol prohibition: violent clandestine markets; criminal gangs; corruption; contaminated products; overcrowded courts and prisons; titanic-sized tax evasion, and cynical disrespect for laws in general.

            The “war on drugs” repeats that folly, with flourishes.  

            Anti-cannabis legislation, overtly racist in its origins and indisputably discriminatory as implemented, forms the keystone of the “New Jim Crow”—the ostensibly “color-blind” per­pet­u­­ation of historic patterns of racial caste oppression. 

            Draconian laws, saturation anti-drug propaganda, mass incarceration, high-tech surveillance, and police-state paranoia succeed in terrorizing citizens, cancelling civil liberties, and blighting both urban and rural communities—without eradicating the outlawed substance.               

            Prohibition fails, even on its own terms!

            What about public safety?

            During the Al Capone bootlegging era, 29,000 lives were rubbed out in just fourteen years.  In contrast, the national rate of murders and assaults by firearms declined after Repeal, for ten consecutive years, dropping to approximately half of the 1933 level.

            We’ve had 85 years of “marijuana” prohibition.  

            What has it brought us?

            On July 6, 2016, a police officer approached a stopped car in Falcon Heights.  Within seconds, the policeman blasted the life out of Philando Castile.  

            At his trial, the cop testified that he feared he was endangered when he noticed “the smell of marijuana” near the automobile.

            Summary execution for “the smell of marijuana!”

            A year later, 17-year-old Austin Young was shot to death in north Minneapolis. Disre­garding prohibition laws, he’d arranged to sell a trifling amount of cannabis. He trusted the wrong persons, and was waylaid and robbed by strangers, who didn’t hesitate at committing murder as well.

            Let’s turn off this treadmill of tragedy!

            Prohibition exacts too cruel a tax, paid in blood, suffering, and grief.  

            Legalization can’t neutralize all adverse consequences from mind- or mood-altering activities, but the collective costs will be less traumatic—as twenty-one other states already know. 

            Cannabis is a plant, not a crime.  There’s a common-sense distinction between use and abuse.  Use by adults is simply a human right, exercised (or abstained from) by informed consumers.  Abuse should be treated as a medical condition, not a legal infraction. The law against “marijuana” creates more dangers than any risks from the herb itself.  

            Let’s support action to end cannabis prohibition and promote healing of the nation.

                                    Oliver Steinberg

                  Chairman, Grassroots – Legalize Cannabis Party

                                    St. Paul, MN