Legal Marijuana Now Party demoted from major party status in Minnesota Supreme Court decision

Two people stand next to voting booths.
Voters casts their ballots at United Methodist Church during the Super Tuesday primary on March 5 in Bloomington.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Updated: 5:50 p.m.

Minnesota is down to two major political parties.

The Minnesota Supreme Court effectively demoted the Legal Marijuana Now Party in a ruling issued Friday. The 27-page decision means only the DFL and Republican parties will continue to have automatic ballot access for their candidates, a share of public subsidy dollars and other legal protections afforded to major parties.

Minor party candidates can still get to the ballot, but they’re required to collect nominating petitions within a short window.

Timing mattered in the decision because ballot filing for the 2024 elections opens on May 21. Justices heard arguments in the case last month, making the turnaround quicker than normal.

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“The Secretary of State must take all appropriate actions necessary to reflect that the Legal Marijuana Now Party is not a major political party in Minnesota for purposes of the state primary election in August 2024 and the state general election in November 2024,” justices wrote in an unsigned opinion.

Two justices, Karl Procaccini and Margaret Chutich, recused themselves. A third, Justice G. Barry Anderson, joined in the opinion on his final day on the highest court. There was no dissenting opinion.

The DFL Party petitioned in February to knock the marijuana party down a rung, saying it failed to do required meetings and other organizational steps that state law says are the difference between major and minor parties. 

A judicial referee assigned by the Supreme Court had concluded that the Legal Marijuana Now Party’s organization ran contrary to state law for major parties. Leaders of the party hoped the Supreme Court would come to a different conclusion, saying that while its setup was unconventional it was reflective of a political upstart. 

Secretary of State Steve Simon said Friday that the marijuana party will have to file to prove that it met the standards to qualify as a minor political party in Minnesota. He said candidates under the party’s banner would still be eligible to appear on the General Election ballot if they file the required petition signatures.

After 2018, there had been four major parties, but the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Now Party lost major status due to poor candidate performance in subsequent elections.

DFL Party leaders had complained on numerous occasions that those parties failed to police their ballot line and some candidates who filed in swing seats were there just to act as spoilers.

Minnesota DFL Party Chair Ken Martin celebrated the ruling saying it evened the playing field for political parties that satisfy legal requirements.

“This is really about the fact that it's just inherently unfair that you have two major parties and — the Republican Party and the DFL party, who do a significant work in organizing around the state and building a statewide organization and certifying our work every year to the Secretary of State — and it's just unfair for another party to suggest that they're the same,” Martin told MPR News.

Legal Marijuana Now Party officials said they planned to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.