"Vulnerable communities" has become the go-to term for discussing health equity in Minnesota, but it is incorrect. I've been volunteering since January to help with vaccine distribution, create pop-up clinics and hold listening sessions, and the people I've connected with are not vulnerable. They may work a different job or speak a different language than I do, but they are capable and smart. Would you feel comfortable talking to a room full of high school seniors who may be mostly students of color and looking them in the face and calling them vulnerable? I didn't think so. What about people of color who kept our nursing homes running and kept our loved ones safe and cared for during the pandemic? Or the essential workers we praised at the beginning of the pandemic and relied on during many of our work-from-home jobs, only to now deem vulnerable? There are some pockets of very vulnerable sick or elderly people — but generally the term is not used to describe them.
Instead of using a blanket term that puts down our community members, please use more descriptive words. I recommend considering describing the lack of health care in certain communities. Or the social determinants of health that stack up against individuals. Or extremes of wealth and poverty. Or education. You might even educate some people and inspire more engagement on social issues for our city.
Kian Glenn, Minneapolis
Solvable without legalization
Let me see if I've got this right ("Legal pot bill focuses on second chances," front page, May 12):
1. Black people are five times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession in Minnesota — so, we change the law instead of changing the police?
2. Decriminalizing marijuana will address the disproportionate impact of drug offenses on people of color — but could we just reduce sentences? Issue small fines instead of incarcerating people; make it retroactive.
3. Some of the revenue generated by the cannabis industry would be used to train law enforcement to recognize drug impairment during traffic stops — so we create a problem, then use the proceeds to try fix the problem we've created. Hmm. Drug impairment? Do we know what we're getting into?
4. Legalization would address racial economic disparities — and revenue could assist those with marijuana-related criminal records, and minorities, to get into the cannabis industry. Hmm. Solve one problem and create another? Are there other mechanisms for job creation? Do we encourage recovering alcoholics to work in breweries or liquor stores for rehabilitation? Some marijuana users become addicted.
5. And what about the problem cited by police: increased traffic crashes in states with legalized cannabis use. Have our leaders done their research?
Just because other states are doing it and increasing revenue is insufficient reason to risk legalizing a substance that's detrimental to many. My son's first mental illness diagnosis was "marijuana-induced paranoia." He subsequently developed schizophrenia.
Surely we can find other ways to generate jobs for minorities, reform police practices and address racial disparities.
Jean Greenwood, Minneapolis
• • •
State Sen. Paul Gazelka and other Republicans previously said regarding marijuana legalization that they wanted to focus on pandemic response legislation. Then we find out that Republicans actually do have multitasking skills when they produced their useless voter ID bill. And Gazelka said last week he would not allow any legislation that "makes the job of law enforcement more difficult."
Would someone please explain to him that legalization of recreational marijuana does indeed make law enforcers' jobs substantially easier? They won't have to arrest people for it nearly as often, and they won't be tempted to arrest Black and brown people for it. They won't have to confiscate property as much. Our courts will become less clogged with pot cases. Our jails and prisons will see a decline in populations of marijuana-related criminals. There is zero data to support their hokey claims about concern over increasing traffic accidents. Other states are showing positive results from a steady and increasing stream of revenue. Legalization is widely popular among a majority of Minnesotans, which is likely the reason Gazelka holds it hostage.
He would serve all of us better if he could use his secret multitasking skills to cease producing legislation for which there is no supporting evidence and begin recognizing the mountain of supportive data regarding legal marijuana in Minnesota.
Mark Pommier, Hibbing, Minn.
Taxpayers pay the price, again
I have become increasingly frustrated and can't accept yet another special session of the Legislature. They knew from Day One of the session the due date for their work to be accomplished but once again they ignored the deadline. Last year, KSTP reported that the Minnesota House session would likely cost between $50,000 and $60,000 for per diem, lodging and mileage for an eight-day session. The Minnesota Senate projected the special session would cost that chamber about $48,000, based on expenses of about $6,000 per day. How much did it actually cost?
How long are we as taxpayers going to put up with this shoddy performance of duties? I personally am tired of being part of a black hole of funding for this and other messes (licensing, to name one) that our state government foists off on taxpayers. Star Tribune, please tell us how much the foolishness of a group of people consistently not getting their work done has cost the taxpayers! We can't fire them until Election Day, but I would suggest we pay no per diem for special sessions. Maybe self-interest will prompt them to get their work done.
And please no partisan responses about whose fault it is. They are all in this together.
Donna McDonald, Ham Lake
Happy birthday to our native son
If there is anything exceptional about America, it is exemplified by the work of Bob Dylan. His positive influence in our world has spanned the terms of more than 10 U.S. presidents. We Minnesotans can proudly lead the celebration of the 80th birthday of Mr. Dylan this week, arguably one of the most influential natives to emerge from this state.
Just five years ago, the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to him, formally recognizing his accomplishments in songwriting. A careful listening to "With God on Our Side" will prompt the question: How did this man acquire this wisdom at such an early age, let alone couple that wisdom with a penchant for writing some of the catchiest melodies that have entertained several generations of listeners? The treasure that he created with "I Shall Be Released" was written in 1967 by the young Dylan before the age of mass incarceration in the United States. The love song "Sara" from the aptly named recording "Desire" nails the passion that he had for his wife to the door of our collective consciousness. One could go on for pages lauding his tremendous volume of work.
When we begin to tally the songs that have enriched our society for 60 years now, the only explanation is genius. This quality doesn't just happen, though. Shouldn't we thank Mr. Dylan for developing his genius for the world's benefit? Can we hear a collective "amen"?
Richard Cousins, Edina
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