Minnesota will legalize marijuana next year. However, Democratic control of the Legislature and governorship is only part of the reason. Former Gov. Jesse Ventura's endorsement of Gov. Tim Walz for re-election, based partly on Walz's promise to make legalization happen, is also only part of it. There is one major reason why it will happen: the third-party movement.
In 2018, the legalize-marijuana movement — working under two banners, the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party and the Legal Marijuana Now Party — was able to get enough signatures to get one or the other the ballot in every statewide race. The reason was to push for the legalization of marijuana. The result was 5% of the vote in two statewide contests, one for each party, giving both major-party status.
Except that status allows candidates to essentially run under a party's banner without the need for endorsement or to collect signatures. You just need to pay the filing fee. The result was that some of the marijuana parties' candidates in 2020 were running essentially to put a monkey wrench in the process. In many cases, it was to split the votes of socially liberal voters with the Democratic candidate and tilt the race to Republicans.
This sort of thing had happened many times before in Minnesota. In 2008, controversial Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann won over Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg when a third-party candidate got 10% percent of the vote under the Independence Party banner, even though the party had endorsed Tinklenberg.
Although the Independence Party was a major party at the time, it lost that status in 2014. During that 2014 election, many of the candidates on the ballot for the party were also trying to raise awareness for legalizing marijuana.
With that said, why are Democrats going to legalize marijuana now that they are in control in St. Paul? To stop the third parties from taking their votes — duh. There's no need to run under a legalize-marijuana party banner if marijuana is legal.
So, yes, marijuana will become legal. Responsibility for that belongs to every person in the past 10 years who ran under a legalization party banner or message, even if their purpose was to help Republicans — as unconventional or disturbing a method as that was (or is) to get desired legislation passed.
And even if you didn't vote Democratic specifically to legalize marijuana, think of it as a tradeoff for other important policies to come.
William Cory Labovitch is a political activist who lives in South St. Paul.