Minnesota voters narrowly support the legalization of recreational marijuana.
A Star Tribune/MPR News poll found 51% of registered voters in Minnesota think the state should broadly legalize the drug, while 37% oppose the change. The rest are unsure.
The poll comes as DFL Gov. Tim Walz and legislators are considering following 11 other states and the District of Columbia that have allowed recreational marijuana. Republicans who control the state Senate have said they would block any effort to pass recreational use, though they are open to adjustments to the state’s medical cannabis program.
That political clash was also evident among poll respondents. Among Democrats, 59% favor legalization, while 50% of people who identify as independents or have other party affiliations support the change. But 47% of Republicans said the state should not legalize recreational use, compared with 42% of GOP voters who were in support.
That was a significant shift from the results of the Star Tribune’s 2014 poll. Six years ago, 30% of all Minnesotans who participated in the poll said the state should follow Colorado’s example and legalize recreational use. Of Republicans, 11% backed the idea and 86% were opposed.
The poll of 800 residents conducted last week found younger people were dramatically more likely to support recreational legalization. Three-quarters of the poll participants between ages 18 and 34 were on board with allowing recreational use, and the vast majority of people under age 49 support it.
However, support dropped to 39% among people 50 to 64 years old, and 37% of people over 65 wanted legalization.
The idea was slightly more popular in Hennepin and Ramsey counties than the rest of the state, and men favored the change more than women.
Roseville resident Raymond Hagberg, 89, was among the older Minnesotans opposed to the change. He said medical marijuana is OK but is worried about safety if the drug is fully legalized.
For many legislators, public safety is one of the top concerns around marijuana. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said he worries about increased traffic collisions, more homelessness and increased mental health problems in states that have allowed broad cannabis use.
But A.J. Sonquist of Crystal sees a number of reasons to follow the lead of Colorado and other states. It’s costing the state a lot of money to try to enforce marijuana laws, he said, and those efforts are not working.
What’s more, Sonquist noted there has been a historic injustice as people of color are more frequently locked up over marijuana.
“Legalize it, get it on board, collect some taxes off it, quit putting people in jail,” he said.