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Top DFL lawmaker begins legal cannabis push at State Fair

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Ryan Winkler talks at State Fair
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, talks at the Minnesota State Fair to announce a series meetings throughout the state to gather advice from Minnesotans on how best to legalize marijuana.
Tim Pugmire | MPR News

Democrats in the Minnesota House will continue to push for legalizing marijuana despite opposition in the Senate, a top DFL leader said Thursday.

House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, used the Minnesota State Fair as a backdrop to announce a series of 15 meetings throughout the state to gather advice from Minnesotans on how best to regulate cannabis for adult use.

"We think it's vitally important that Minnesotans weigh in directly on this policy change, and we think it's vitally important that Minnesota gets it right,” Winkler said.

Meetings are already scheduled in Duluth on Sept. 21, Minneapolis on Sept. 25 and St. Cloud on Oct. 12. Details on additional meetings are still being worked out.

Winkler sees legalization as inevitable.

“Cannabis policy needs to change,” he said. “It’s changing all over the country. In fact, Minnesota can’t stop this from happening.”

A cannabis bill faces long odds in the Republican Senate, where a committee voted down a bill last session, and GOP leaders have shown no interest in revisiting the issue. 

Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, was attending a separate State Fair event Thursday. Chamberlain said he could potentially support sentencing and probation reforms that would help some people convicted of marijuana-related crimes. But he said legalization would be a mistake.

“It’s a bad idea to think that marijuana is going to improve our culture and our state,” he said. “It’s just the wrong road to go down.”