To the Editor, 

Democrats have continued their reign of terror in Minnesota politics, this time by passing an extreme bill that focuses on legalizing marijuana with zero safeguards. The Democrats have stuck to a theme with their bills this year: pushing forward extremely partisan bills and failing to entertain any amendments or input coming from Republicans. The bill simply was unacceptable, and it will have negative impacts on public safety, local control, and children, and will also expand state government and bureaucracy. 

The number one concern that Democrats ignored with this bill is public safety. Currently, there is no available roadside test for checking if folks have been driving under the influence of cannabis. Though there are courses for local law enforcement to become trained in drug impairment, this bill fails to fund those. There is no reason for us to be legalizing a substance that alters mental states, without a reliable test to determine level of inebriation. With no safeguards in place, this bill does nothing but put road safety and overall public safety at risk.

It’s incredibly alarming that this bill also completely supersedes local control. Language in this bill prohibits local communities from denying cannabis licenses and limits their ability to regulate the number and location of facilities selling the drug. Every community in our state is different and has its own unique desires. Instead of leaving decisions up to communities, Senate Democrats have pushed yet another bill that strips any input from local officials. It also fails to provide financial resources to communities after legalization. Law enforcement offices will have to deal with increased calls, border cities will potentially be facing a drastic increase in traffic, and cities will have no control over where these shops go. This bill truly ignores the needs of our communities and fails to even give them a say in the matter.

Democrats are also failing our kids by passing this bill. Throughout history, legislatures have passed laws to protect children from things that have harmful effects on their brains and development—like tobacco, drugs, and alcohol. Placing marijuana shops in cities will allow drugs to be more readily available, and therefore more accessible to minors. This bill fails to protect kids from the increased availability of marijuana, its negative effects, and potential addiction. 

This bill also greatly expands bureaucracy. Democrats are creating a new agency that oversees marijuana and licensing, which means a massive expansion of government. Not to mention the fact that more than 10 licenses will be available for the state to dole out as it sees fit. It’s also concerning that part of the bill focuses heavily on “social equity” grants, which will go towards funding marijuana shops in specific communities that have been previously affected by marijuana enforcement. Adding a legal drug market into cities that have been adversely affected by drugs in the past is a dangerous path to travel down. This bill is going to be costly on all fronts.   

There is simply no upside to this bill. Our communities will suffer, kids will be at risk, and roads will be more dangerous. As this bill went through committee, Democrats had no interest in addressing the many concerns Republicans brought forward. Senate Republicans tried on multiple occasions to add funding for law enforcement and drug addiction programs, yet as they’ve done all session, Democrats refused to entertain our valid concerns. In a time of inflation and rising costs, Minnesotans want tax relief. Legalizing drugs and expanding a drug market is bad for all Minnesotans.

Senator Paul Utke

Park Rapids, Minn.