Last week came expected news: Any prospect for legal recreational weed was dead on arrival in the Minnesota legislature. As long as Republicans still hold a Senate majority, the advancement of civilization will have to wait.
But there was good news as well: Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that he will no longer prosecute people caught possessing or selling marijuana in cases involving less than 100 grams. In other words, the march to freedom carries on – if by a slower, more circuitous route.
Officially, Freeman cited the epic waste of time and money spent on low-level, non-violent cases. He also noted that blacks are far more likely to be arrested, even though studies show they smoke marijuana at roughly the same rates as whites.
Unofficially, the county attorney clearly doesn't want to be on the wrong side of history. A KSTP poll last October found that 56 percent of Minnesotans favor legalization, a figure that's undoubtedly much higher in the metro area. Only 32 percent favor continued prohibition.
Still, Freeman's keeping one foot in the door of the bad old days. Those with prior convictions – even misdemeanors – may not get a break under the new approach. (Minnesota law dictates that anyone possessing 45 grams or more can still be charged with a felony.) And even first-time offenders will still have to do community service, partake in a diversionary program, or meet specific conditions to have their cases dismissed.
Minneapolis Police will also be clinging to the past – or at least its leaders will. They'll continue to make marijuana arrests, spokesman John Elder told the Star Tribune, though they'll remain a “lowest level” priority.
Individual officers appear to have already decided they have better things to do. Marijuana busts in the city have fallen by half since 2010.
Yet true freedom won't come until Republicans are ousted from their Senate majority in the legislature, and Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove) is deposed as chairman of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.
Limmer, whose specialty is keeping Minnesota from having nice things, is the same guy who's been blocking any form of gun control in the state. Last week, Republicans on the committee refused to allow a recreational weed bill from going to the Senate floor for a vote, effectively killing it for this year.