ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Two new pro-cannabis political parties in Minnesota that have guaranteed spots on the state ballot are gearing up for the 2020 campaign.
The Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party and the Legal Marijuana Now Party gained major-party status after their candidates performed better than 5% in two statewide elections last year.
Representatives of the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party sent petitions to Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, top legislative leaders and Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, Minnesota Public Radio News reported. The documents detail a proposal to decriminalize cannabis and allow people to grow marijuana without a permit.
Chris Wright, chairman of the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party, said the state constitution is clear in that no one needs a permit to sell products from a farm or garden. But Wright added that his party won't support any legalization measure unless it restores the liberty to cultivate, which was undone by legislation in 1935. None of the Democratic-backed legalization measures introduced last session pass that test. Wright said that his party will target any opposing lawmakers.
"We want to run against those candidates who've proposed legalization, actually. We want them to vote no on any legislation that requires a license," Wright said.
Democratic House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, who plans to introduce a new legalization bill next session, said he's conscious of the cultivation issue and will consider it. But Winkler noted he won't be pressured by the parties.
"I don't think that we will be just doing what any one group or organization of individuals wants us to do. We will be looking at what's best for the state," he said.
Marty Super, the chair of the Legal Marijuana Now Party, said his organization intends to field legislative candidates in districts that make sense, but they won't try challenging incumbents with a similar agenda.
Oliver Steinberg, a longtime legalization supporter with connections to both parties, would like to see the parties merge into one and build a stronger organization. Steinberg is not content with the pace of change.
"I don't see a systematic and well-organized transition or maturing of the organizations," he said. "Both of these parties have been more of an idea than an organization."
Both cannabis-focused parties intend to have candidates running in next year's U.S. Senate race.