This week, former Colorado public officials Stanley Garnett and Doug Friednash, who were opposed to marijuana legalization, shared their opinions with Minnesota legislators about the things to consider if cannabis is to be legalized.
The two are currently members of a Denver law firm with a department dealing with marijuana and industrial hemp. They said that they are sure they made the right decision by opposing legalization. At the time of their speech, they were invited to Minnesota by Ryan Winkler, who is the Minnesota House Majority Leader. Winkler is heading the cannabis legalization initiative in Minnesota.
The two said that the reason they accepted the invitation was to express their fears on the legalization of adult-use weed and regulations if Minnesota moves forward with the initiative. Friednash, who is the former chief of staff to Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper, said that other states that opt to follow Colorado could learn from their experience.
Friednash went on to say that the process of legalization was scary because no other state had done it and were afraid of the implications since they were being watched internationally.
Garnett, who served as the district attorney in Boulder County for three terms, said that he was in favor of adult-use marijuana prohibition before the voter approval in 2014.
Garnett has had a change of heart because he is now in favor of recreational marijuana legalization, as it ensures public safety. He noted that Colorado’s experience with marijuana has revealed that with proper rules in place, legalization is better than criminalization.
Garnett further said that he was initially doubtful of the success of the 2012 referendum in Colorado which required legislators to allow for the legal cultivation, possession, use, and sale of cannabis to adults.
Garnett also said that marijuana prohibitionists claimed that the legalization of adult-use pot would lead to the collapse of the western civilization because of increased crime rates, deaths, as well as deterioration of public safety. But, none of these have happened since legalization.
In Minnesota, they have a medical cannabis program that permits patients with a limited set of illnesses to use marijuana. The drugs can be accessed only in the form of a pill, oil, or vapor.
Winkler, together with other broader marijuana advocates, are drafting a bill for the next legislative session and the majority of the Democrats are in favor but the Republicans are against the legalization of marijuana for non-medicinal use. He says that they aim at creating a legal and regulated market while still enforcing action against illegal activities such as underage use and the black market.
The two officials also attended other functions during their stay in Colorado, such as the citizen meeting at the town hall, and they also met with leaders of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA).
The Executive Director of MPPOA, Brian Peters, appreciated the Colorado officials’ willingness to talk about the challenges they faced during legalization.
Friednash said that states need to change the packaging and labeling of edibles to make them less attractive to children. He also noted that stringent control of plant products should be implemented.
Friednash further said that before licensing, the state has to consider agricultural, revenue, and public safety impacts in addition or marijuana’s effects on the education system and human rights.
Industry watchers say cannabis entities like VIVO Cannabis Inc. (TSX.V: VIVO) (OTCQX: VVCIF) and Organigram Holdings Inc. (TSX: OGI) (NASDAQ: OGI) could be pleased that the Minnesota lawmakers opted to listen to both sides of the legalization debate from the perspective of Colorado.
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