Recreational marijuana debate heats up with two proposals

Minnesota has become the next front in the battle to legalize recreational marijuana use, thanks to some new proposals from Democrats.

“Will they get a committee hearing? No. I won't hear the bill because of 32 years’ experience in law enforcement and enforcing some of those laws,” said Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center.

Cornish says bills to legalize marijuana will never get through committees, certainly not the one he chairs, which is Public Safety.

“And when I've talked to parents of drug offenders in drug courts asking me not to legalize it because they say it's a gateway drug and that's how their kids got into it,” said Cornish.

But the Democrats backing two bills to make pot legal say there are benefits and they want it talked about.

“I would never say that cannabis is harmless,” said Tina Liebling, D-Rochester. “I don't believe it's harmless, but I do believe that prohibition of cannabis is much more harmful than the cannabis itself.”

Their arguments for legalizing recreational marijuana are that it's needlessly criminalizing a large number of people who already use it, and in the eight states and the District of Columbia where it is now legal, it's been both an economic boon and a new source of taxes and regulated for consumer protection.

“So we should capitalize on it, make sure that it's safe and can add some much needed tax revenues for our state, fund things, like public schools and give Minnesota families property tax relief,” said Jon Applebaum, D-Minnetonka.

Governor Dayton again stated he's against it.

“I don't support it because law enforcement is very, very concerned,” said Governor Mark Dayton.

While the DFL House members backing the bills say this would allow law enforcement to focus on more serious drugs, like heroin, Cornish believes marijuana is a gateway to those serious drugs and we shouldn't open the gate.

“I think the only possible way you'd get them through is to flip the House, the Senate and the Governor into DFL hands, I think that's the only chance they have,” said Cornish.