This week advocates of marijuana in Minnesota had something to celebrate as a measure to permit adult cannabis use survived its first committee test.

A recreational marijuana bill had passed its first-ever legislative committee.

Minnesota’s House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler had introduced the bill on Feb. 1st to legalize adult-use cannabis along with Rep. Jessica Hanson, Sen. Melisa Lopez Franzen and Rep. Rena Moran.

“This is an opportunity in the age of COVID, and political and racial disruption and economic uncertainty to open the doors to grow our local economy and bridge the outrageous racial disparities in our state,” said Anthony Newby to the Star Tribune. Newby is a north Minneapolis resident who works for a CBD company.

The legislation passed out of the House Commerce Committee this week on a 10-7 party-line vote, with all Democrats supporting the measure and all Republicans opposed.

This marked the very first time in Minnesota’s history that recreational marijuana passed a committee in either chamber of the Legislature.

“It’s a bad bill,” said Ryan Hamilton with the Minnesota Catholic Conference however. “It’s a bad bill for adolescents, it’s bad for our brothers and sisters with substance-abuse problems, it’s bad for people who use our highways, and it’s bad for the common good.”

The bill would expunge misdemeanor-level cannabis convictions from people’s records. Higher-level convictions would go before an expungement review board.

“It’s coming. It’s time to get it right,” said Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley. “We have an opportunity to go from an illegal, criminal-justice approach that hurts a lot of people and move to a system where we can actually address the real concerns, create real opportunity and right some past wrongs.”

Currently Minnesota allows cannabis use only for certain health conditions under one of the most strict medical marijuana programs in the U.S.

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