Minnesota may be the next state to legalize marijuana. Minnesota House Democrats spent last month reaching out to communities to build support. Gov. Tim Walz tipped off state agencies that recreational pot may become legal, and, over the summer, state agency staffers began studying states with legal marijuana, like Colorado and Oregon.
The DFL, in their push for legal pot at the House, held an event announcing their state tour for support in August where Walz discussed what legalization would look like from the perspective of public health, public safety, and public profit.
Also, the state has a reported 49 people locked up only on marijuana charges. A total of 90 people are in a Minnesota prison for something pot-related.
At the event, representatives like Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, acknowledged that people of color, blacks in particular, are disproportionately punished for drug offenses.
In short, the state that used to lock up mainly black people for weed is now looking to legalize, tax and profit from the stuff.
This story is nothing new. Slowly, as the stigma around weed and drugs in general loosens, the only people left behind in the recreation and profit are the same as those in prison.
And that targeting shows no signs of stopping. Those still getting the remaining drug raps are people of color. Those capitalizing on the new revenue stream in such states as California and Colorado are not typically people of color.
Minnesota has a chance to do right by the people it has punished for something it may soon see as a legitimate good. A sense of righting a past wrong for black and brown people, of anything in the ballpark of “reparations,” is often vehemently attacked and belittled.
It’s sort of like black and brown people and weed. When it’s in our hands, it’s used to arrest and attack us, to enclose us behind bars and concrete. When it is in white hands, it’s “kids being kids,” or now, the foundation of legal, celebrated enterprise.
Fine, don’t call making things right with people in Minnesota prisons for marijuana “reparations.” Call it “restitution” or whatever legalese the land of the lawsuit should be able to get behind.
Also at the DFL kick-off event, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said lawmakers will look to be educated on these issues from community conversations.
We can’t talk away the years ripped from people’s lives for something as non-violent — as insignificant — as weed. Part of any future marijuana legalization must include clauses specifically addressing sentences of people convicted of marijuana-related charges.
The state also needs to closely monitor who gets approved for state funds and grants for weed start-ups.
Minnesota has a chance to do this whole weed-reversal right.
Solomon Gustavo was a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.