Minnesota DFL challenges Legal Marijuana Now status ahead of 2024 election

Two people stand at a voting booth.
Voters cast their ballots at Temple Israel polling station on in Minneapolis. The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party filed a legal challenge Tuesday that aims to strip the Legal Marijuana Now Party of its elevated status ahead of the 2024 election.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party filed a legal challenge Tuesday that aims to strip the Legal Marijuana Now Party of its elevated status ahead of the 2024 election.

In a petition filed with the Minnesota Supreme Court, DFL Chair Ken Martin said the Legal Marijuana Now Party came up short in 2022 and 2023 of meeting legal requirements for major parties. Those standards got tougher under a law passed last year by the DFL-led Legislature. Both the state GOP and DFL supported it.

The DFL and Legal Marijuana Now Party both have major party status now, along with the Minnesota Republican Party. That status provides benefits, including access to public campaign subsidies and an easier way for a party to invite national candidates to run in their  presidential primary contests. 

Major party candidates also have a simpler path to the ballot in Minnesota. They can file by affidavit rather than having to collect and submit signatures on a nominating petition. 

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Campaign Brawl Minnesota
Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chair Ken Martin gives interviews at the DFL election night party at the Intercontinental Hotel in St. Paul in 2022.
Glen Stubbe | Star Tribune via AP File

In his petition to the court, Martin said the party failed to host the required number of local conventions, set up party infrastructure or run enough candidates on the Legal Marijuana Now banner. He said Secretary of State Steve Simon should move to decertify the party as a result.

“There are two major parties that actually do organize statewide that conduct conventions throughout the state, build organizations that raised money, that endorse candidates, that run candidates up and down the ballot. And those are the Minnesota Republican Party and the DFL,” Martin said.

Martin continued, saying the Legal Marijuana Now Party shouldn’t benefit from major party status if it doesn’t follow requirements laid out in law.

“This, to me, is just a question of fairness,” he said. “They very clearly lied on their certification documents. They are not a major party, and they shouldn't be afforded any material benefits that major parties, like the DFL or the Republican Party get as a result of their work.”

Legal Marijuana Party Chair Dennis Schuller told MPR News that the challenge amounted to harassment against the party. And he said he had worked with the secretary of state’s office to comply with the new, heightened requirements for major parties.

“I feel confident that our diligence is in line with the new rules but the new rules do make it pretty much impossible, without a great amount of support, you know, to continue as a major party after this election,” Schuller said.

Martin said in a news release that voters who backed adult-use legal cannabis would have a home with the DFL. Democrats and a small number of Republicans in the Legislature voted to legalize cannabis for adult use, possession and home growing last year.

Legal Marijuana Now has held major party status since 2018. And it, along with now minority party Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party, have been blamed for pulling votes from DFL and GOP candidates in neck-and-neck races.

Schuller and his party fought against the change in requirements to maintain major party status. He said the stemming challenge didn’t come as a surprise.

“We're an activist group trying to make a difference and get the word out that cannabis is not a crime,” he said. “So this specific challenge, I guess we just have to expect it. This is the political realm.”