Marijuana legalization – We’re about to mess around and find out.

One of DFL’s signature public safety initiatives this legislative session was to legalize “recreational adult use” marijuana. Governor Walz signed the legislation into law on May 30, making Minnesota the 23rd state to legalize recreational marijuana.

In a state where random violent crime and an ineffective criminal justice system is of significant concern, prioritizing the legalization of marijuana should be a major disappointment.

That disappointment seems lost on our DFL leaders:

“Today I signed a bill legalizing adult-use cannabis and expunging nonviolent cannabis convictions in Minnesota. This is the right move for Minnesota.”

Gov. Walz

“Legalizing adult-use cannabis ‘and’ expunging cannabis convictions makes Minnesota a more just place to live.”

Lt. Gov. Flanagan

“Cannabis Queens. The best group of women I could have asked for to partner with on this bill!”

Sen. Port

The effort was successfully marketed by the left as simply decriminalizing user amounts of marijuana — but it is so much more, and the effects will not be positive. In fact, it’s likely the effects will be outright unpleasant for most of us.

Here are just a few things you may not have been told:

Expansive and Expensive:

This “simple” legislation ended up as a 319-page law. It creates several completely new bureaucracies and adds over 200 employees to our state government. It will cost nearly $120 million in the first biennium (2024/25), and $115 million in the second biennium (2026/27). That will require a great deal of license fees and tax-generated revenue to break even. The state expects to generate just $24.4 million in 2026/27 when dispensaries begin operation. That’s quite a gap.

What’s legal?

On August 1, 2023, it will become legal in Minnesota for anyone over 21 years old to possess up to two ounces (a large sandwich bag) of marijuana in public, and up to 2 lbs at home. Adults will also be able to grow up to eight plants in their homes and consume marijuana in their homes or on their property.

This will quickly get out of hand. Law enforcement will unfortunately, yet understandably, reprioritize responses and resources elsewhere, and the public will be left navigating a world of open-air pot smoking, and street-level and residential pot sales.

Sadly, much of this black-market activity and associated violence will be burdened by the very communities of color that those championing this law claim to be helping.

It will be up to local communities to create ordinances that would penalize people openly smoking pot in public. Given the strong position the state has taken on “legalizing pot,” don’t count on law enforcement, prosecutors, or the courts getting too worked up over public consumption.

We will need to get used to the odor. We’ll smell it frequently — while out eating, while driving, while at a movie, while out for a walk, while staying at a hotel, and so on. Imagine living in a duplex with a prolific pot-smoking neighbor. Things are about to get unpleasant, and we will have little recourse.

Firearms and pot?

Despite a great deal of purported concern over gun control, the DFL purposefully eliminated existing prohibitions against gun possession and permits to carry for users of marijuana, or former marijuana offenders. “Priorities” can make for odd outcomes.

Economic Boon?

States that have legalized marijuana under the impression that the legal market would create an economic boon, have been disappointed.

Given Minnesota’s haphazard rollout of edible marijuana in 2022, the less-than-successful medical marijuana market since 2015, and the sizable appropriations made to facilitate this legalization, there is little reason to believe Minnesota’s state-sanctioned dispensaries will be a boon to the state economy.

This law will also undoubtedly serve to enhance the underground black market for marijuana in Minnesota. The feeble prohibitions against private sales of marijuana will fail to curtail such activity — in fact, they will enhance it. The proliferation of the black market will make it even less likely that licensed dispensaries will thrive — especially when forced to add an effective tax of 16.875%.

Private growers and dealers will always be able to supply marijuana cheaper and with more potency than the state. Dealers will continue to profit, and that profit will outweigh any penalty the legislation purports to impose.

Buyers will naturally purchase marijuana in a manner that offers the path of least resistance.  This will manifest into black-market, street-level sales of higher potency, cheaper marijuana that can be purchased with ease, 24 hours a day on a street corner, at a neighborhood house, or in a convenience store back room — all without any realistic threat of penalty.

Lessons from States Which Have Legalized Marijuana

The experiences of states which have legalized marijuana should clearly inform us that this law will:

  • Increase use and abuse of marijuana
  • Increase appeal for and use of marijuana by minors
  • Increase incidents of driving while impaired, and associated injuries and fatalities
  • Increase accidental ingestion of marijuana in its many forms by children
  • Increase use of marijuana in prohibited locations such as public venues, hotels, concerts, restaurants, schools, public transportation, and vehicles, etc.
  • Increase black market sales and associated crime and violence

Read more about the problems Colorado has faced in the ten years since it legalized marijuana here, and the problems New York City has faced in 2023 since its rollout here.

The concept of legalizing a controlled substance is deeply flawed, as demonstrated by the states which have “led” the way in this area.

Low level marijuana offenders filling our prisons?

You have undoubtedly heard the narrative that our prisons are full of non-violent low-level marijuana offenders, making it necessary to legalize marijuana? Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our sentencing guidelines call for six prior felony drug convictions for user-level possession before a prison sentence is even “presumptive.”

In 2022, the Minnesota Department of Corrections reported housing 7,800 inmates statewide. Of that total, just 15% were incarcerated for a drug offense, and just 3% of those for a marijuana offense. This represents 36 inmates in our state prison system for a marijuana offense. Those 36 inmates represent just .07% of all drug violations reported by the BCA annually.

We don’t have an over-incarceration problem involving “low-level drug offenders,” especially marijuana offenders. What we do have is a crime problem associated with drug use. The state knows this, but the misrepresentation continues.


A great deal of effort and millions of dollars in lobbying created the narrative that the legalization of marijuana in Minnesota will solve a great deal of our problems and will be a pleasant experience for everyone.

The lessons learned by states who have legalized marijuana tell a different story. On August 1, we will begin learning for ourselves.