Spent a few hours at the Minnesota State Capitol with my friends from the MN Campaign for Full Legalization of Cannabis for Adult Use on February 20, 2018. It was the first day of the Legislative session. Mostly we walked around and dropped off Legislator Surveys at the offices while chatted with various staffers and interns. No one disagreed with our positions on legalizing cannabis in the State. Everyone understood how critical it will be to include some kind of pardon, or expungement, for those convicted and/or serving time for cannabis related offenses. It will also be important to provide pathways from the illegal cultivation and distribution to the legal industry. It seems that most legislators were at the Governor’s Reception, so we were lucky to find Sandra Masin, DFL Representative from District 51A, in her office. Even better, she invited us in for a long discussion about why and how to legalize cannabis for adult use.
Masin recalled the fight to get the medical marijuana bill passed in 2014. The main opposition was the police and police federations, using the mythical Gateway Drug illusion. Ultimately, the police chose to remain neutral in the face of the medical professionals and the highly regulated system in MN. I do not think they will remain neutral about full legalization. I think the influence of the police and police federations on this issue can be countered in two ways. One by directly undercutting the Gateway Drug fallacy with evidence that cannabis is actually a non-lethal terminus drug, and the other by positioning cannabis as an alternative to opioids. In fact, cannabis has been shown effective for many human conditions that too often bring people into contact with police. Legal access to cannabis could help reduce police workload. Of course, there are the financial concerns that so often go unmentioned. Marcus covered that with Rep. Masin.
Criminalizing people for seeking, supplying, and consuming a plant for which a lethal dose has never been described, and that can bring relief for pain, anxiety, and stress is ridiculous at face value. Because this is America and because the police are, on the whole, racially biased, we know the contribution of the War on Drugs to mass incarceration – or is it reincarceration? The use of “marijuana” prohibition to selectively criminalize people of color is as old as the word itself. This mechanism of racial oppression operates in 21st century Minnesota, as outlined by Fia Goldfine and Marcus Harcus to District 51A Representative Sandy Masin in this short clip:
The logic of legalizing cannabis for adult use encompasses more than the social justice benefits of ablating the harassment of cannabis consumers, primarily those of color, for extortion and mass incarceration. The benefits of cannabis consumption to health and well-being are especially important to consider as we move toward full legalization, including home cultivation and sharing. Gina Salminen told us how the medical cannabis program in Minnesota has helped her deal with the pain of Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy, FSHD. Listen when Gina says that cannabis deflected her from fentanyl use. Now google fentanyl overdose. Is it not our common goal to bring non-lethal relief and succor to other humans? If not because of empathy, then for self preservation? Fewer stressed out people means reduced chances of someone going off in a shower of lead. Simple logic.