Minnesota is one of many states that allow medical marijuana, but its restrictions are some of the country’s strictest.
Republican Rep. Pat Garofalo, of Farmington, said apprehension from Republicans comes from the complexity of the proposal, which touches labor laws, criminal law, sentencing, taxation and several other areas. Though he said he believes the proposal still needs work, Garofalo said Democrats’ acceptance of his amendment to use extra tax revenue from cannabis sales for a tax relief account appeals to fiscal conservatives, and he called the move a “big step in the right direction” toward garnering more support.
The legislation is likely to pass the Democratic House whenever it comes up next week but its chances remain slim in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Republican Sen. Warren Limmer, of Maple Grove, chairman the public safety and judiciary committee, is seen by Democrats and activists as a roadblock.
GOP Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, of East Gull Lake, said early in the legislative session in February that he didn’t see cannabis legalization as a priority and that the effects of legalization in other states should be studied first. His spokeswoman said that leaves the caucus’ position with less than two weeks before the end of the regular session on May 17.
Leili Fatehi, campaign manager at Minnesotans for Responsible Marijuana Regulation, said preventing legalization is also politically advantageous for Senate Republicans. Several pro-marijuana third-party candidates were able to siphon votes from Democrats in key Senate districts during last November’s election, helping Republicans to narrowly hold onto their majority in the chamber.