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Minnesota’s governor orders prep for legal pot; top Republican says hang on



AP FILE - Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz addresses a news conference Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has ordered state agencies to prepare for legalization of recreational marijuana, despite a vow from the Senate Republican leader to block any such legislation next year.


“It’s my position that it’s not good for Minnesota. It’s dead as far as I’m concerned in the Senate for next year,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said.

Walz told Minnesota Public Radio News that he’s relying on supporters to continue pushing for pot legalization.

“My agencies have been tasked to put all of the building blocks in place, from Revenue to the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health. We will have everything ready to go, and we will be able to implement it in Minnesota the minute the Legislature moves this.”

House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler said he plans to sponsor a legalization measure next year.

“It’s a big issue that needs a lot of attention to be done well,” Winkler said about why he’s currently involved in efforts.

The form of the legislation in the House is uncertain. Ideas range from full decriminalization to establishing a task force to study the issue. Winkler said he wants to get the public’s input over the next few months.

“We’re going to around 15 listening sessions around the state to hear people’s interests and concerns about cannabis legalization. I think most of us who have looked at the issue think that legalization is the path we have to take. But I don’t want to prejudge that until we’ve had that conversation with Minnesotans.”

Minnesota’s Senate rejected a bill last session that would have decriminalized recreational marijuana in 2022. Critics highlighted concerns about marijuana’s effect on traffic accidents, underage use and drug treatment.

With those concerns in mind, Gazelka added that he has no interest in reconsidering the matter.

“We’ve gone through the due diligence and the process to listen to the issue. There were just a lot of negative issues around recreational marijuana.”

Eleven states and the District of Columbia have already permitted recreational marijuana for adult use.

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