A new pair of polls has found that the majority of Minnesota residents support adult-use marijuana legalization—and one survey shows that even more Minnesotans approve of the state’s move to legalize THC-infused edibles that was enacted earlier this year.
The first survey from KSTP and SurveyUSA found that 57 percent of respondents back recreational legalization, including a majority of Democrats (62 percent), Republicans (52 percent) and independents (57 percent).
A separate survey from The Star Tribune, MPR News and KARE 11 that was released on Sunday also found that legalization enjoys majority support in Minnesota, though by a smaller margin of 53 percent.
That poll showed a wider partisan divide on the issue, too. While 70 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents said that they back ending prohibition, only 29 percent of Republicans said the same. There was majority support for legalization across all age demographics except those 65+ (47 percent).
Respondents in the SurveyUSA poll were separately asked about legislation that Gov. Tim Walz (D) signed into law in June that included provisions to provide permanent protections allowing state hemp businesses to legally market certain cannabis products—including foods and beverages infused with CBD and other cannabinoids.
A strong majority (66 percent) said that they agree with the legislature’s decision on that reform. Again, support crossed party lines, with 76 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of independents backing the policy change.
The policy change might be favored by most Minnesotans, but it also recently prompted a medical cannabis company to file a lawsuit against the state, alleging that the law unconstitutional discriminates against the business. Vireo is fighting for the right to sell THC edibles to any adults 21 and older, as well as medical cannabis products for registered patients.
“Support for legalization outweighs opposition among most demographic groups, with exceptions including those who describe themselves as very conservative, who oppose legalization by a 20 point margin, and those over age 65+, who very narrowly oppose, 42 percent to 40 percent,” the SurveyUSA analysis says.
This poll—which involved interviews with 775 Minnesota adults from August 30 to September 4, with a margin of error of about +/- 4 percentage points—comes on the heels of a separate survey conducted by officials with the the House of Representatives at the annual State Fair that also found majority support for legalization.
That legislature-run poll found that 61 percent of Minnesotans back legalizing cannabis for adult use. Thirty percent said they oppose legalization, and 8 percent said they were undecided.
Support was up this year from 58 percent when the House Public Information Services polled fair goers on the issue last year. In 2019, the House poll found 56 percent support for legalization.
For the new Star Tribune/MPR/KARE 11 survey, 800 likely Minnesota voters were asked about cannabis policy from September 12-14, with a 3.5 percentage point margin of error.
In an interview conducted at the State Fair late last month, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, former state Sen. Scott Jensen, told The Star Tribune that he thinks the state should consider decriminalizing “trivial amounts” of marijuana and expunging prior records, and he wants broader cannabis legalization to be decided by voters at the ballot.
Walz, for his part, has pushed for legalizing marijuana in a regulated market, including funding for implementation in his budget proposal this year, for example.
But despite a comprehensive reform bill from House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D) advancing through 12 committees before passing on the House floor last year, legalization stalled in the GOP-controlled Senate and was not ultimately enacted. An earlier bipartisan legalization proposal led by Jensen and Sen. Melisa López Franzen (D) in 2019 also did not advance.
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Meanwhile, the THC edible law that the governor signed this year makes it so that all hemp-derived cannabinoids including CBD can be legally sold in food items, beverages, topicals and more—as long as the products contain less than the federal limit of 0.3 percent THC. Edible and beverage products must be limited to a total of 5 mg THC per serving and 50 mg per package.
The THC limit applies to all forms of the psychoactive compounds, including the most widely known compound delta-9 THC, as well as other increasingly popular derivatives like delta-8 that exist in an especially grey regulatory area in many state markets.
In the recent interview, Jensen declined to say whether he would work to revise the unique cannabis policy, stating that officials should assess the efficacy of the program after six months to see if changes should be made.
“I think we have a little bit of mud on the wall and we’re going to have to sort it out and see what sticks,” he said.
Back in January, Winkler and López Franzen discussed their plans to advance the cannabis reform this session.
Winkler said at the time that his bill was the “product of hundreds of hours of work involving thousands of people’s input, countless hearings and public listening sessions.”
Separately, certain Democrats including staff for Winkler have found themselves caught up in a controversy over an alleged (and ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to change the name of a third party focused on marijuana that some have seen as undercutting Democratic support on the ballot in past cycles to one instead meant to appeal to far-right conservatives in an apparent attempt to siphon votes away from Republicans in the upcoming election.
Previously, in 2019, the governor directed state agencies to prepare to implement reform in anticipation of legalization eventually passing.
While legalization wasn’t ultimately enacted following the House’s passage of the bill last year, the governor did sign a bill to expand the state’s medical marijuana program, in part by allowing patients to access smokable cannabis products.
The House majority leader said in 2020 that if Senate Republicans don’t go along with the policy change legislatively, he hopes they will at least let voters decide on cannabis as a 2022 ballot measure, but that didn’t materialize.
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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.