DFL U.S. Rep. Tim Walz's transition to the governor's office brought him face-to-face Tuesday with former Gov. Jesse Ventura, who pressed the incoming Minnesota governor to get moving on full-scale marijuana legalization.
Walz, who was elected last week, is seeking advice from those who have held the job before him. So far, he has met with four of five, including his nearly hour-long, private sit-down with Ventura at the state Capitol.
Ventura shared some details of what he and Walz talked about, from balancing family life to Ventura's past gripe that the first lady isn't paid to his desire to see Minnesota embrace legal marijuana.
"We're just plain missing the boat. Minnesota has never been like that. Minnesota has always been a leader. But in the case of cannabis we've become a follower," Ventura said outside the Walz transition office. "And I think the new governor-elect is going to change that."
He even floated a possible use for tax dollars that could be derived from marijuana sales.
"How does it sound? Pot for potholes," Ventura said with a grin.
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In the campaign, Walz supported calls to loosen restrictions on marijuana use. Speaking separate from Ventura, Walz didn't say precisely how far he'll go or how fast.
"I think it's important for our partners both in the House and in the Senate to start and work things out," Walz said. "I've kind of and will be a little clearer as we lay out our agenda, as we get closer to the transition time when we come in. But we certainly talked about it on the campaign trail."
Walz has also spoken with retiring DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and former Republican Govs. Arne Carlson and Tim Pawlenty in recent days. He hopes to meet soon with former GOP Gov. Al Quie, who like Walz served in Congress before becoming governor.
His time with Ventura began with a hug. Ventura said he was impressed to get a call from Walz seeking his input.
Ventura, who served a single term as a third-party governor, predicted big things for the newcomer.
"I think he can make headway on a lot of things. He's a guy who wants to get things done. In order to get things done, you have got to have people willing to compromise and, as the old cliche says, work across the aisle," Ventura said. "And that's what the American people are looking for right now. That's why the governor-elect had such success in this election."
But Ventura also had plenty to say later about himself. Now a host of an RT America show — a cable channel funded by the Russian government — Ventura talked proudly of the time he met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
"I met him, he shook my hand. And not only that, he gave me more respect than a lot of elected officials in my own country have," Ventura said, comparing him to the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro. "You know what they did? They called me governor."
At one point, Ventura pulled open his snowmobile jacket to show off his lean physique covered by a Jimi Hendrix T-Shirt.
"Sixty-seven with a six-pack," the former pro-wrestler said. "I'm the same weight I was when I got out of the U.S. Navy."
"You have got to get in shape — either for Wrestlemania or you know, 2020. I get in shape for a reason. What would happen in 2020 if Jesse Ventura were the candidate of the Green Party?"