Sensible Change Minnesota, the policy partner of Sensible Minnesota, supports policies that create safer and more inclusive communities. Cannabis legalization is a priority issue and, while we debate what that looks like, we will work to ensure proposed policies account for the anticipated consequences of legalization.
Our team was involved with the creation and instrumental in the expansion of Minnesota’s medical cannabis law and, after much research and debate, sets forth the following priorities for any adult use legalization policy. These policies are based on our mission of promoting compassion over isolation, restorative justice over incarceration, and public health over stigma.
Current policies isolate and harm people who use substances, including cannabis, and many communities in rural Minnesota have struggled with economic growth due to declines in manufacturing and agricultural opportunities. The below policies create an equal footing for a “One Minnesota”-style initiative. Promoting economic development in rural Minnesota provides a second chance for economically struggling communities throughout the state by bringing new jobs and opportunities to their region.
The vast majority of those who consume cannabis do so responsibly, and oftentimes in lieu of alcohol. It is important we do not continue “prohibition lite” by permitting unreasonable discrimination by employers, landlords, and courts. If a safety issue arises with someone’s use, laws are already in place for intervention.
Finally, promoting economic development, strong families, and safe living, will reduce the criminalization of cannabis use. However, we recognize that our law enforcement agencies are currently saddled with “policing” poverty, mental illness, and addiction via current policies and training. The 21st Century Policing Fund will use tax revenue produced by the sale of legal cannabis to provide resources and training to law enforcement to address community relations and reduce these burdens on our criminal justice system.
We support policies promoting compassion over isolation, including economic opportunity, strong families, and safe living, such as those which;
- Ensure licensing fees are not punitive in nature, providing economic development opportunities for low and middle income entrepreneurs.
- Encourage economic growth in rural Minnesota by providing financial incentives or proportional license distribution for businesses establishing facilities outside the seven-county metro area.
- Protect persons from employer discrimination in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, if the discrimination is based upon an individual’s positive drug test for cannabis components or metabolites, without evidence of employee impairment during their working hours.
- Protect families from interference by the Courts or social services based solely on the person’s use of cannabis; removing any presumption of neglect or child endangerment unless behavior creates a danger to the safety of the children
- Allow landlords to only ban smoking cannabis if they operate smoke-free housing
- Create a 21st Century Policing Fund to train law enforcement on improving police-community relations and implementing best practices to reduce the criminalization of poverty, mental illness, and addiction.
It is essential to enact policies that put persons, previously targeted for what will be legal, on equal footing with other Minnesotans by vacating and dismissing all convictions, charges, and arrest records for conduct lawful under Minnesota’s revised cannabis laws. Further, cannabis prohibition has had an irrefutable disproportionate effect on communities of color. Any policies enacted in Minnesota must provide redress for these targeted communities through fair employment, economic development, and opportunities for entry into this new industry.
We support policies which reflect restorative justice over incarceration, including righting the wrongs of cannabis prohibition, and providing opportunity for previously incarcerated persons, such as those which:
- Vacate & dismiss all convictions, charges, and arrest records, including early sentence discharge, for persons currently incarcerated or under a form of supervised release for non-violent possession, sale, and cultivation offenses which would have been legal under the new adult use policy.
- Provide for automatic expungement of all non-violent cannabis possession sale, and cultivation offenses not eligible for vacate and dismiss post-legalization.
- Allow persons with prior non-violent felony convictions, whose civil rights are restored, to own controlling interest in cannabis businesses
- Strive for 20% of all legal cannabis business licenses in the 7-county metro be awarded to businesses that include racial minority ownership through financial incentives for minority owned businesses.
- Ensure employment opportunities for communities disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition by requiring cannabis businesses within the seven-county metro maintain 20% employment of people of color
- Encourage participation in labor unions for cannabis industry workers by providing incentives for cannabis companies to participate in collective bargaining.
- Create a Drug War Damages Fund for legal Cannabis business development in disadvantaged low-income communities and communities of color disproportionately targeted for enforcement of “marijuana” prohibition laws.
We believe it is incredibly important to prioritize public health in the context of legalization, for both consumers and the community. Consumer safety for the over half-a-million cannabis consumers in Minnesota is not possible without a legal, and regulated, market. To avoid marketing or promoting legal cannabis to children, communities may place reasonable conditions on cannabis establishments, but will need to amend their zoning regulations so Minnesota does not perpetuate a secondary prohibition by localities.
Most importantly, funding from tax revenue will improve how Minnesota prevents substance abuse and addresses substance use disorders. Starting with consumer education, the public will learn about appropriate dosing, ingestion methods, and how to avoid potential harms of cannabis consumption. Funding should also made available to organizations providing effective and innovative services to those with substance use disorders, including the promotion of community-based recovery where the individual begins building their life without addiction. Oversight by a group of prevention specialists, cannabis consumers, persons in recovery, veterans organizations, and other community members will ensure this fund is always used to promote the most effective models of prevention and treatment.
We support initiatives that prioritize public health over stigma, including consumer and community safety, education, and community-based recovery, such as those which:
- Ensure Minnesota’s cannabis industry is created locally and ensures consumer and community safety by requiring:
- Entities hold no more than one license of each license type
- Companies are controlled by Minnesota residents
- Contaminant testing
- Labels setting forth the cannabinoid make-up of a cannabis product
- Environmentally friendly packaging
- Permit local jurisdictions to place reasonable conditions upon cannabis establishments, but require their zoning regulations permit cannabis establishments.
- Establish a Responsible Substance Use Education and Chemical Dependency Recovery Fund to provide grants for innovative and evidence-based safe Cannabis consumption education, K-12 substance abuse education, substance use harm reduction services, support for communities experiencing collateral consequences of the war on drugs (including the opiate epidemic) and recovery models that promote community-based recovery administered by an oversight group comprised of prevention specialists, Cannabis consumers, persons in recovery, veterans organizations, and other supportive community members.
Outside our mission, we understand and support the taxation of legal cannabis. A tax rate that keeps the final cost of product lower than what it is available for on the illicit market is key to successful legalization in Minnesota. Further, we support a small but meaningful local tax, providing new revenue sources for communities struggling with continued declining local government aid.
While the discussion about adult use begins, access to medical cannabis remains at the forefront. We are open to suggestions and urge you to reach out to our team at [email protected] with your ideas on how to integrate patient needs with adult use legalization. We will have a separate statement relating to our medical cannabis improvement agenda.
We welcome allies who incorporate our priorities into their policy proposals and hope to have a seat at the table as Minnesota moves away from current punitive policies. Sensible Change Minnesota believes Minnesotans are responsible enough to make good decisions for themselves and we look forward forming partnerships to bring this initiative to life.
It is our sincere hope that we can make many, if not all, of these initiatives a reality, but it won’t be easy. We’re seeking volunteers to help us with graphic design, public relations, and coalition building. If you’re interested in volunteering, please email [email protected] with a brief statement of interest and a resume or CV.
We also need funding to purchase necessary infrastructures and, if possible, hire consultants and staff to assist in execution of this vision. Please make a one-time or set-up a recurring donation online, or contact us at [email protected] for a mailing address.
Our team acknowledges that this is nowhere near an exhaustive list of policy items needed for successful adult use policy. We have prioritized the above-identified items to highlight their importance in fulfilling our mission. Due to the fluid nature of the law making process, and the differences in the advocacy community, we hope that by focusing on our priorities we can make an impact in the repeal of cannabis prohibition while not getting lost in the weeds duplicating the work of our allies.