Only 3 days remain in the 2021 legislative session, and we aren’t even close to finalizing a new two-year budget for the State of Minnesota. In fact, we don’t even have a budget spending target.
The biggest problem continues to be House Democrats’ insistence on numerous tax increases this session, despite the fact that Minnesota has a $1.6 billion budget surplus and billions more coming from Washington in the form of federal aid. This refusal to compromise on the part of the House majority is setting us up for the least productive session in nearly four decades.
RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA BILL PASSES IN THE HOUSE
Yesterday, the House Democrats brought forth their recreational marijuana legalization bill. I voted no on this bill because it has significant issues and does not contain important elements that I believe must be in the bill.
There are many people on both sides of the recreational marijuana issue who have very strongly held opinions on the subject. I do too. Whether for or against, I believe the evidence is clear that recreational marijuana will one day be legal in Minnesota. I am committed to making sure this is done in the most responsible and safe way possible – and especially for the protection of our children.
I understand that legalizing recreational marijuana is an attempt to fix issues created by its prohibition. These are real issues that need to be resolved. However, for every problem the legalization solution might fix, it has the potential of intensifying and creating many more problems.
I question the wisdom of making a substance like this more available and more acceptable when it has been proven to have detrimental and potentially permanent effects on the developing brain of children and young adults; has been shown to be a gateway drug to harder and more addictive drugs; and exacerbates depression when we already have an epidemic of depression among many youth and adults. These are also real issues and deserve serious attention.
I have always been open with anyone who has asked me about this issue and made it clear that, though I have reservations, I would vote for a bill when certain important conditions are met. Before we approve recreational marijuana in Minnesota, I would require that the following elements be a part of the legislation:
1. A THC intoxication roadside test is available for law enforcement (similar to what we currently have for alcohol) to determine if a person is driving under the influence. We want to make sure we do not increase the number of accidents and deaths on our roads.
2. A liability exemption for businesses where employees are injured or killed on the job (or who cause the injury or death of others) while under the influence of cannabis. Many jobs require the operation of potentially dangerous tools, equipment, vehicles, etc. that could pose a higher risk of accident when being operated by someone who is under the influence. Since it is sometimes difficult to determine if someone is impaired by cannabis, businesses will need this extra liability protection.
3. Employers have the right to determine a drug policy that best fits their operational, safety, and business culture and productivity needs - not a one-size-fits-all state mandated drug policy.
4. Age restrictions for possession and use of at least age 21 and preferably 25. Human brain development is not complete until the age of 25 and a growing number of studies that marijuana use during that development can cause long-term or possibly permanent adverse changes to the brain.
5. A warning is required to be printed on all marijuana products that states that marijuana exposure during brain development up to age 25 can cause long-term or possibly permanent damage to the brain.
In the meantime, I will continue to support the use of cannabis for medical purposes and will approve common sense laws that expand access and affordability for those who need it medically.
This bill passed in the House. However, the Senate made it clear months ago that they will not be addressing the marijuana issue this year. This bill will go nowhere. I am very frustrated that the Democratic House majority, with just three days to go until the end of session, chose to waste precious legislative time addressing a bill that will never become law when they have passed ZERO budget bills. Instead, they continue to insist on pushing forward billions of dollars in tax hikes.
We should be addressing the state budget: funding for education, roads and bridges, nursing homes, and more; we should be addressing the federal PPP and unemployment tax relief to help the hurting small business owners and laid off employees who were harmed by the pandemic. Monday is Tax Day. While the House debated a marijuana bill that will go nowhere, those Minnesotans who are hurting the most were getting out their checkbooks to pay taxes to Minnesota on their federal relief money. This is just plain wrong.
WORLD FALUN DAFA DAY
Yesterday was also World Falun Dafa Day. Falun Dafa, more commonly known as Falun Gong, is a peaceful spiritual practice rooted in traditional Chinese culture. Sadly, credible investigative reports show that the Chinese people who practice Falun Gong in China have been the target of cold genocide and forced organ harvesting. The Communist Chinese government has long been known for its systematic organ harvesting from executed prisoners and particularly from Falun Gong prisoners of conscience.
I have been working with my colleague across the aisle, Rep. Steve Sandell, and a wonderful advocate and amazing woman, Akiko Tsutsui, to bring recognition to this atrocity. Rep. Sandell and I, along with a number of other colleagues in the Minnesota House, have jointly authored a House resolution to bring light to and call for an end to this atrocious practice by the Chinese government.
My thoughts are with the practitioners of Falun Gong on their special holiday today, and prayers for a speedy end to this terrible genocide and forced organ harvesting.
Talk to you soon,