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Emotion running high in Minnesota debate on legalizing marijuana

Emotions ran high as the debate kicked off at the state Capitol on whether Minnesota should legalize Marijuana.

Posted: Jan 16, 2019 11:24 AM
Updated: Jan 16, 2019 1:54 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Emotions ran high as debate kicked off at the state Capitol on Wednesday on whether Minnesota should legalize recreational marijuana.

Marijuana supporters heckled opponents of legalization during a news conference that ended in a shouting match.

"The current science does not support the commercialization and normalization of recreational marijuana," said Judson "Kim" Bemis Jr., chairman of the Minnesota affiliate of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. He said use by teens and young adults "skyrockets" when marijuana is legalized.

After Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom and Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie also spoke against legalization, St. Paul community activist John Thompson related how his friend, Philando Castile , was shot and killed by a police officer who said he smelled burnt marijuana after stopping Castile's car in Falcon Heights in 2016.

The case gained nationwide attention when Castile's girlfriend livestreamed the immediate aftermath on Facebook, fueling growing protests across the country over police shootings of black men. The officer, Jeronimo Yanez, who is Latino, shot Castile, a black man, just seconds after Castile informed him he had a gun. A jury acquitted Yanez of manslaughter.

"Don't sit up here and tell me that marijuana is not a tool that police officers use to attack black men," Thompson shouted. "This is a tool that police officers use all the time."

Legalization proponents had their own news conference scheduled for later Wednesday.

Minnesota is one of several states across the country where legislatures are considering whether to legalize recreational marijuana. New Gov. Tim Walz supported legalization during the campaign, and some lawmakers plan to introduce bills this session that would make Minnesota follow the lead of other states where it's now legal. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a plan Tuesday to make his state the 11th. In Illinois, the discussion has shifted from "when" to "how."

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, leader of her chamber's new Democratic majority, has said the House will discuss the issue this session but that it's too early to know the outcome. In the Senate, which Republicans control by just two votes, Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has warned of the potential negative consequences that need to be examined before changing the law.

Backstrom said chemical addition and illegal drug use is "by far the largest contributor to crime in our society" and that legalizing marijuana would only aggravate the problem. Fatal crashes involving marijuana use have risen sharply in states that have legalized it, he added.

The prosecutor also said it's a "myth" and a "lie" that America's prisons are filled with low-level, nonviolent marijuana users. He said less than half of 1 percent of people imprisoned in Minnesota are there for marijuana use, and 70 percent of them have prior felony convictions.

"You don't go to prison for a marijuana offense unless you're in possession of or dealing with large quantities of this controlled substance," Backstrom said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 26273

Reported Deaths: 1126
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin8867641
Ramsey3252140
Stearns205014
Nobles15625
Anoka148878
Dakota141464
Washington68034
Olmsted67211
Kandiyohi5111
Rice4833
Scott4602
Clay44129
Mower4062
Wright3392
Todd3361
Sherburne2482
Carver2322
Benton1823
Steele1670
Blue Earth1480
Freeborn1420
Martin1325
St. Louis11814
Pine930
Nicollet8811
Lyon811
Winona8015
Cottonwood790
Watonwan780
Crow Wing774
Unassigned7511
Carlton750
Otter Tail730
Goodhue715
Chisago641
Polk612
Itasca5610
Dodge530
Chippewa521
Morrison480
Le Sueur461
Meeker460
Douglas450
Becker430
Jackson420
Murray400
McLeod390
Isanti360
Waseca270
Pennington230
Rock230
Mille Lacs231
Faribault200
Swift190
Beltrami180
Wabasha180
Fillmore171
Sibley160
Brown162
Norman150
Pipestone120
Marshall120
Kanabec121
Wilkin113
Cass112
Aitkin110
Wadena100
Pope100
Koochiching90
Big Stone80
Redwood70
Renville70
Mahnomen61
Lincoln60
Yellow Medicine60
Grant40
Traverse40
Red Lake40
Lac qui Parle30
Clearwater30
Roseau30
Hubbard30
Houston20
Kittson10
Lake10
Stevens10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 20767

Reported Deaths: 583
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk4541137
Woodbury283737
Black Hawk177548
Buena Vista9971
Linn97179
Dallas94025
Marshall91218
Wapello62814
Johnson6189
Muscatine56541
Crawford5472
Tama41029
Scott38010
Dubuque35521
Louisa34911
Pottawattamie31110
Sioux2980
Jasper26917
Wright2120
Washington1958
Warren1661
Plymouth1462
Story1261
Allamakee1204
Mahaska9912
Poweshiek928
Henry722
Bremer706
Boone700
Des Moines671
Clarke660
Clinton651
Taylor640
Webster621
Hamilton610
Guthrie543
Cedar491
Benton431
Monroe415
Shelby370
Cherokee370
Jones370
Jefferson350
Marion350
Osceola340
Clayton343
Cerro Gordo331
Iowa330
Dickinson330
Buchanan330
Madison292
Lee290
Fayette280
Sac280
Davis280
Harrison260
Monona250
Clay250
Lyon240
Winneshiek240
Emmet240
Lucas222
Hardin210
Grundy200
Mills200
Delaware191
Humboldt191
Floyd191
Franklin170
Appanoose173
Hancock160
Butler161
Ida150
Greene150
Pocahontas150
Page140
Kossuth140
Keokuk140
Audubon131
Jackson130
Carroll130
Chickasaw130
Howard120
Cass120
Winnebago110
Montgomery91
Adair90
Union90
Van Buren90
Adams70
Palo Alto70
Calhoun60
Ringgold40
Mitchell40
Fremont40
Worth30
Wayne10
Decatur10
Unassigned00
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