By Emily Ledger
A recreational cannabis bill has passed its first committee test in the state of Minnesota, USA. Supporters of the bill hope that this victory will mark the first step towards Minnesota becoming the latest US state to legalise the recreational use of cannabis.
Following the latest wave of cannabis reforms that were headlined in November by recreational legalisation in four states, the momentum for change is continuing to grow in the US.
Currently, cannabis use is permitted for certain medical and health conditions under what is considered one of the strictest medical cannabis programs in the country. However, this latest victory could be the start of the state’s journey to further liberalisation of the drug.
Supporters of cannabis reform in Minnesota claim that legalisation could help to bring in much-needed revenue in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is also hoped that the bill could help to support social justice reforms and benefit communities most impacted by the ongoing War on Drugs.
According to the ACLU of Minnesota, black citizens in the state are around five times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than their white counterparts, despite similar rates of usage. These figures mirror the statistics seen throughout the rest of the nation.
The legalisation bill passed in the House Commerce Committee on Wednesday by a vote of 10-7. All Democrats supported the measure, while Republicans collectively rejected the bill. The vote represents the first time that a bill on recreational cannabis has passed a committee in either chamber of the state’s Legislature.
While this may be promising, the bill is expected to face tough opposition in the Senate where Republicans remain widely opposed to addressing the measure. Republicans managed to keep control of the state Senate by one seat following the last election.
Fifteen states have now supported the legalisation of adult use (people aged 21 and over) of recreational cannabis. This includes South Dakota, where the fate of the legislation is uncertain following the overturning of the bill.
Momentum is also building in other states. New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, is continuing with his efforts to introduce cannabis legalisation as part of this month’s budget. Supporters in North Dakota are also trying to get a cannabis legalisation bill on the 2022 ballot.