Dayton: No legal recreational marijuana on my watch

Gov. Mark Dayton took questions from Kerri Miller and a live audience during the Minnesota State Fair on the 2017 opening day. Evan Frost | MPR News.

Gov. Mark Dayton warned Minnesota advocates of legal recreational marijuana that they won't be successful on his watch.

Dayton ruled out the possibility Thursday during an interview with MPR's Kerri Miller at the Minnesota State Fair. Asked by a member of the audience about the changing attitude toward cannabis nationally, the DFL governor said he won't loosen Minnesota's marijuana laws during his final year of his term.

Dayton went on to list problems he said stem from drug abuse -- though he focused on opioids and other illicit drugs. He said making marijuana more readily available goes in the wrong direction.

"If somebody wants to use marijuana, go visit California or Colorado. But don't bring it back here," he said. "But I don't see it as improving the quality of life of those societies."

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Those states are among the eight that have legalized marijuana for any use. Many others, including Minnesota, have medical marijuana programs.

Bills to fully legalize marijuana through a ballot initiative have been introduced in the Minnesota Legislature but haven't gone anywhere.

Before the younger man who raised the question could object to his answer, Dayton added on.

"When I was your age I wouldn't have agreed with it either," the 70-year-old governor said.

During his appearance, Dayton also defended his use of a line-item veto to cancel funding for the state House and Senate. The move was overturned by a district court, but the Minnesota Supreme Court will review that decision next week.

And he made clear he wouldn't take sides yet in the race to replace him in 2018, with several DFLers in the running. An audience member asked Dayton to appraise the chances of U.S. Rep. Tim Walz. Dayton called Walz "one of many good candidates" and applauded his record.

But, he added, "I am staying out of it. I've got all the Republicans trashing me. All of the DFLers are trying to tip-toe around me. This is my last year at the fair. Next year I'll be just a footnote somewhere."

"Minnesota is going to have good choices next year," Dayton said.