Minneapolis Mayor: Easing marijuana laws could help prevent opioid abuse

New research suggests opioid use is lower in states that have eased marijuana laws, and on Tuesday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said he's ready to make it legal if it means that marijuana could potentially save lives. 

Responding to a study showing that people in states with looser marijuana laws use fewer opioids, Mayor Frey tweeted his support for legalizing recreational marijuana, saying "it's a criminal and racial justice issue. It is an economic issue, and as researchers are demonstrating, it is an opioid issue that could save lives."

“We've already decriminalized it in Minneapolis through an ordinance I authored a few years ago… to see full legalization, it would need to happen at the state level,” he said.

It took Colorado 12 years to go from legalizing medical marijuana to becoming one of the first states in the country to allow pot for personal use. So how long until recreational marijuana is legal in Minnesota?

“It’s only a matter of time before it passes, and I look forward to the day it does,” State Representative John Applebaum said.

Rep. Applebaum introduced a bill at the legislature that would remove the state prohibition on recreational marijuana. Even though it hasn't gotten a hearing, he believes Minnesota is two to four years away from making it the law of the land.

“The big obstacle we have here in Minnesota is that the republicans control the Minnesota legislature, so as soon as they are out, marijuana is in," he said.

But Representative Greg Davids said Colorado has had issues with everything from people driving while high to banking problems since it legalized recreational marijuana, and he doesn't believe Minnesota should follow suit.

“As far as a timeline, it has very little support in the legislature at this point, and I think it’s a bad idea,” Rep. Davids said. “I think it’s a long ways away and I'll do everything I can to ensure it’s a long ways away.”

The other representatives say that a lot can change over a short period of time, pointing to issues such as Sunday liquor sales and more. The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is against more states making marijuana legal; they say young people can be particularly vulnerable to developing addictions.