In an effort to keep you, our readers, well-informed and abreast of relevant issues, today is the third in a series of questions we are asking all of Steele County’s candidates for state office.
We want voters to know where each candidate stands on the issues in order to make their best decision at the ballot box.
Each week, we’ll ask the candidates a new question. They will all receive the same question, be given a word limit and a deadline of four days to answer. We’ll publish their answers the following Wednesday; responses may be edited for length.
The series will continue through Nov. 2, the last Wednesday before the Nov. 8 general election.
If a candidate doesn’t respond, we’ll note that.
This week, we’re asking about marijuana:
A new law took effect July 1 in Minnesota, allowing people 21 and older to buy edibles and beverages that contain a limited amount of THC, the ingredient in marijuana that creates a high. The ballot for the Minnesota 1st Congressional District special election on Aug. 9 carries the names of two candidates who support the legalization of cannabis – marijuana. Surveys indicate the majority of Minnesotans – how big a majority depends on the survey – support legalizing recreational marijuana use, joining 19 states and the District of Columbia. Where do you stand on the legalization of recreational marijuana in Minnesota? There is a 200-word limit.
We advise you to ignore the R or DFL behind each name and reflect only on the answers. You might be surprised to find more common ground than you expected. An (i) indicates the incumbent candidate, though with this spring’s redistricting, the district numbers may not align with the seat they’re seeking.
Question of the Week:
Where do you stand on legalizing marijuana use in Minnesota? (200 words)
Minnesota House District 19B
Abdulahi Ali Osman – DFL, of Owatonna:
John Petersburg – R (i-24A), of Waseca:
I voted against the current law that went into effect allowing edibles laced with THC. I believe proponents of the bill misled us in indicating it was only going to clarify current levels. However, as I read it, the bill was going to expand the usage. I understand many don't see an issue with recreational usage of marijuana, but I have talked to many from other states who have seen the negative effects of the dependency and abuse. Whereas I do see the benefits of certain compounds in marijuana that can be beneficial to various conditions, we would be proceeding blindly without extensive knowledge about its long-term usage. Until the Federal government removes marijuana from a Class 1 drug rating, we won't be able to do the diligent testing and research necessary to determine it. Until then, I recommend proceeding cautiously.
Minnesota House District 23A
Peggy Bennett – R (i-27A), of Albert Lea:
We have much more important issues in our state than legalizing a recreational drug. How about focusing on families struggling to pay for groceries and gas due to high inflation, supporting our police, and holding criminals accountable? Recreational marijuana holds many concerns for me. There are multiple new studies from Colorado showing marijuana, much more potent today, causes devastation in people’s lives, including depression. We don’t need these extra problems. I also understand the freedom element here. With reservations, I may consider the legalization of recreational marijuana with these conditions:
· A THC intoxication roadside test is available to law enforcement to help keep our roads safe.
· Liability protection for businesses if employees under the influence harm or kill others on the job while operating vehicles, dangerous equipment, etc.
· Employers have the right to determine a drug policy that best fits their operational, safety, and business culture needs –not a one-size-fits-all state mandated drug policy.
· Prohibitions for possession and use under age 21 to protect the developing brains of young people.
· A warning printed on all marijuana/products stating that marijuana exposure up to age 25 can cause long-term and possibly permanent damage to the brain.
Mary Hinnenkamp – DFL, of Albert Lea:
In 1914 the U.S. passed the 18th Amendment, criminalizing the production, sale and transportation of alcohol. It was done to protect the family, reduce the number of people in jail, and reduce the consumption of alcohol. It was a huge failure. The consumption of alcohol stayed at the same level. With no government regulation, the product became dangerous and sometimes toxic to consume. The number of people jailed rose dramatically, and corruption was rampant. People were contemptuous of the law. And, of course, Prohibition was repealed in 1933 because it was a dismal failure in spite of its good intentions. I am for the legalization of recreational cannabis for adults in Minnesota. (Minnesota adopted the legalization of medical cannabis with success.) I think that too many people have tragically been trapped into the criminal justice system over casual use of cannabis. It has been part of the school-to-prison pipeline. At present, cannabis is unregulated, and for many years students have told me that marijuana is easier to find and buy than alcohol. So let’s legalize cannabis, regulate it, tighten access so underage folks don’t have access, and restore respect for the law. Let’s learn from our history.
Minnesota House District 23B
Patricia Mueller – R (i-27B), of Austin:
The discussion surrounding the legalization of marijuana requires more than 200 words. I have some libertarian leanings and support expanding the medical marijuana market, as it is currently extremely controlled. I also support a soft decriminalization of marijuana, as having a felony for a nonviolent crime often jeopardizes employment and housing opportunities in the future. I am open to legalizing marijuana, but I do have some concerns. First, police need a reliable road-side test for people who drive while under the influence like what we have for alcohol. Law enforcement have shared that several suspected DUI stops are actually more drug related. We need to equip our law enforcement officers with the tools to keep our roads safe. Second, we need to be wise with how marijuana is legalized. If Minnesota regulates the industry too much, there will still be a black market and people could buy products that contain lethal substances. But we also need to prevent children from accessing and using these substances as much as possible. Legalization is a very complex issue and needs input from a variety of people. Legislators need time to deliberate and do their best to avoid any unforeseen consequences.
Tom Stiehm – DFL, of Austin:
Recreational marijuana is here and will be here whether it is legalized in Minnesota or not. As a retired police officer, and a 17-year narcotics investigator, I have a unique insight into this issue. Many of the states around Minnesota have already legalized it, so it is, and has been very available to anyone who wants it. By legalizing marijuana before we have a referendum, we can better control where the taxes on it will be spent. We can make sure the taxes are not just put in the general fund but are earmarked for potential issues that may arise with the legalization. The legalization of marijuana is imminent; the issue is when, and how, we control it.
Minnesota Senate District 19
Kate Falvey – DFL, of Faribault:
I support the full legalization of recreational marijuana in Minnesota. We are most of the way there, since cannabis products have been legal for medical use for a while and as of July 1, 2022, the sale of edibles and beverages with THC in them became legal. Legalizing recreational marijuana fully in Minnesota will boost the economy through expansion of current and creation of new cannabis businesses and increased tax revenue. Many other states have successfully implemented regulations, licenses, and laws pertaining to recreational marijuana use. It would not be difficult to research, discuss, and adapt these policies for our needs in Minnesota. There are virtually NO cases of someone overdosing from marijuana use. The amount of THC one would have to consume to OD is astonishing. In comparison, alcohol overdoses are sadly a common occurrence, especially among young people. Regular consumption of alcohol not only affects the brain, as marijuana does, but also wreaks havoc on other organs in the body. The liver is affected and most people forget how much sugar is in alcohol which can lead to diabetes. Yet, all forms of alcohol are legal and most forms of marijuana are not.
John Jasinksi – R (i-24), of Faribault:
Minnesota Senate District 23
Gene Dornink – R (i-27), of Brownsdale:
Full recreational marijuana is not something I support. Keeping marijuana out of the hands of our children is one of the most important reasons. New studies are coming out that demonstrate the damage to a developing brain. Making it more accessible will make it harder to keep away from our children. Minnesota has more than 3,000 alcohol-related accidents per year and about 25,000 DWI arrests per year. We don't have a way for law enforcement to test a driver they suspect is high, although I authored a bill to launch a pilot program on new technology. Additionally, employers are concerned drug testing may not protect their employees with heavy or motorized equipment, and employees who legally use marijuana may be putting their job at risk if the test isn’t accurate. Finally, the Federal Government still lists marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, and despite complete Democrat control, they have not made the move for nation-wide legalization either. I think a higher priority would be to reform our medical marijuana program to reduce costs and make it easier to navigate. As improvements are made to the medical use of marijuana, it's important to keep the broader public safety a top priority.
Lisa Hanson – R, of Hayward:
Brandon Lawhead – DFL, of Austin:
Next week’s question
Though some would say we live in the land of sports heartbreaks, Minnesota lawmakers will likely take up the question of legalizing sports betting again this session. It started last year with a promising bipartisan push, and alignment with the state’s gaming tribes – but still stalled, after a Senate committee added licenses for two horse racing tracks to the bill. The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association objected to the addition.
If the point is more about bringing the industry into a regulated market than it is about tax revenue, would you support making sports betting legal?