Minnesota's Senate Majority Is Spouting Misinformation About Marijuana Legalization

Legalizing cannabis is not on the agenda for Minnesota's Republican-controlled Senate.

While Minnesota's neighbor Michigan legalized recreational cannabis last November, residents of the North Star State shouldn't get their hopes up about legal weed any time soon. At least according to Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R).

In a recent interview on the Senate's priorities for the upcoming legislative session, Gazelka said cannabis isn't on the table as far as Republicans in the Senate are concerned. He also claimed that bringing legal weed to Minnesotans will only exacerbate the state's ongoing opioid issues.

"We have an opioid crisis where we're asking for more money for addictions and problems related to that," Gazelka told MPR News on Monday. "Then, at the same time, people want to advance the legalization of recreational marijuana. It just seems counterproductive to what we're trying to do with opioids."

Gazelka's view clashes with recent research showing that improved access to cannabis is correlated with reduction of opioid-related deaths. But that lack of evidence didn't stop him from pinning those deaths and other tragedies on cannabis. 

"Just looking at Colorado, traffic accidents are up six, seven percent. Adolescent development is down, addictions are up, homelessness is up. It's a lot of things that come with something this extreme. Look at what we're trying to do with opioids and the abuse there, why would we want to go the opposite direction on recreational marijuana?"

While Gazelka is right that traffic accidents have risen in Colorado, there is no solid evidence to suggest marijuana legalization has been the cause. And teen use of cannabis isn't much different in Colorado than anywhere else in the country.

Gazelka's misinformation campaign could be a pre-emptive strike against incoming Governor Tim Walz (D), who supports reforming Minnesota's marijuana laws. And with the Democrat-controlled House on his side, Governor Walz may be able to push cannabis legalization through the legislature.

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Local officials and law enforcers often have fears that allowing legal cannabis shops to operate within their jurisdictions will have detrimental effects. Some people fear that allowing pot shops in their neighborhood will increase violent crime rates, allow young people easier access to the drug and lower the property value of surrounding homes. But is any of that true?

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