Let’s dance with Mary Jane

Now is our time to pass marijuana legislation that would benefit Minnesota.

Connor Nikolic

Medical marijuana bills are awaiting debate in the Minnesota Legislature next year.

The last time pot received state attention was in 2009, when the Minnesota Legislature passed a medical marijuana bill that was vetoed by former Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Like Pawlenty, Gov. Mark Dayton has taken a stance throughout his career against marijuana for any use.

In Colorado, a 136-page report of laws on marijuana use was finalized earlier this week. As of Jan. 1, 2014, the first state-run recreational marijuana shops will open in Colorado. These developments will no doubt have an effect on the marijuana debate in our state.

In response to the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Washington and Colorado, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder notified these state governments that the U.S. government would not seek to overrule the new laws in those states, or the 18 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Rather, federal prosecutors will focus on preventing distribution to minors, drugged driving, trafficking by gangs and cartels, and the cultivation of marijuana on public land.

With many states legalizing weed in some form, Minnesota is ready to join their ranks.

Before you write me off as a head-in-smoke dreamer, hear me out, because I’m not alone. According to a 2011 Boynton Heath Services survey, 18.7 percent of students have used marijuana within the past 12 months. Despite the current legal status, smoking pot is a budding activity around campus.

I know of at least a handful of people who could get me some bud at a moment’s notice, but for obvious reasons I would much rather buy kush from a government–regulated company.

In Washington, the government could license 334 pot retailers. Among these retailers, potency and safety policies would help protect consumers. I proceed with caution when encountering some guy who looks like James Franco in “Pineapple Express,” but I would have a lot more faith in a retailer being monitored by government watchdogs.

As discussed in my column last week, the University of Minnesota’s campus-wide smoke-free policy goes into effect next fall. I would expect the campus to extend similar policies to marijuana once it is legalized in this state.

I see no problem with that. I’m sure that all smokers on campus, medicinal or otherwise, would be willing to venture off campus if it meant they would be allowed to get their high.

I myself am not an avid pot smoker. However, one only needs to understand the issues of minor drug offenses on our criminal justice system, global drug trafficking or impure drugs to understand the benefits of legalizing a drug we already use.

So, for the best interests of their constituents, I ask Rep. Phyllis Kahn and Sen. Kari Dziedzic to do whatever they can to convince their peers and Dayton to legalize marijuana in Minnesota. I’ll be rooting for you the whole way.