St. Paul councilman pushes for legalizing, decriminalizing marijuana

The St. Paul City Council voted 6-1 Wednesday on a resolution supporting the legalization and decriminalization of recreational marijuana, which means they will bring the city's support to the state Capitol. The issue is expected to be brought up in the next legislative session. 

St. Paul City Council Member Dai Thao wanted to send a clear message to Governor-elect Tim Walz: legalize and decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana.

“This is an opportunity to be creative,” said Thao. “We are the most progressive city or the most progressive state in the Midwest.”

Council Member Thao says it’s about money. He says the city and the state can generate a tremendous amount of tax revenue, noting thirty percent of the city’s property owners don’t pay taxes.

“Our LGA, local government aid, are being cut year after year and so that has put a tremendous impact and pressure on our property owners or rentees in Ward 1 alone,” said Thao. “We continue to have tax increase in the double digits.”

Thao points to states like Colorado and Oregon as models of success in legalizing marijuana. He says funding could be used for education, infrastructure and homelessness. He believes dispensaries in Minnesota could draw users from surrounding states.

“I think this is right in the marketplace where we’re the most progressive in the Midwest, so we have a huge, we can open up recreation for tourism,” he said. “We’re going to capture the market from North and South Dakota.”

One council member did speak in support, however another made it very clear, he was not on board.

“I’d like to speak in opposition of this,” said Council Member Dan Bostrom. “I’m not ready for that. I don’t know that the studies have been done to generate that kind of support for it …You can’t even buy menthol cigarettes in the City of St. Paul and now we’re talking about the fact that we’re going to support legalizing marijuana? I’m not there yet.”

Tax revenue was the primary reason for legalizing marijuana, however, the resolution also asks for it to be decriminalized and for the records of convicted cannabis crimes to be expunged as soon as possible.