A Wednesday press conference at the Minnesota State Capitol kicked off what is sure to be an emotional and divisive debate over the legalization of marijuana.
The press conference was called by Smart Approaches to Marijuana Minnesota, and both Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom and Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie were in attendance. But supporters of legalization repeatedly mocked and interrupted the speakers throughout their remarks, and essentially hijacked the news conference by the end of it.
In one case, Sandy Melville, a woman who lost her son to an inebriated driver, was shouted down by protesters when she attempted to discuss how the issue has personally impacted her.
“Minnesota road safety will be compromised even further by impaired drivers if this ridiculous initiative passes. Alcohol is legal, easy to get, hence the 24,000 DUI arrests a year. Legalizing recreational marijuana will likely cause a huge increase in DUI arrests,” Melville said, but was interrupted by sarcastic jeers from protesters.
“It should be illegal. We should be a dry state,” one protester exclaimed.
“If you can’t support cannabis, you can’t support alcohol,” another added. “You can’t support cigarettes either.”
Melville went on to reveal that her son was “thrown 51-feet” and killed by a driver who had alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine in his blood, but protesters began chattering over the fact that the driver was using cocaine.
“There’s nothing worse in life than losing your kids. As a parent, you try to do your best to ignore the possibility that our children may die before us because it’s not supposed to happen, and when it does, there is a hole so deep that nothing will be able to fill it,” Melville continued.
Towards the end of the press conference, community activist John Thompson shouted that marijuana is a “tool that police officers use to attack black men,” and pointed to the case of his friend, Philando Castile, who was killed by an officer who said he smelled marijuana in Castile’s car.
KSTP’s Tom Hauser was on the scene, and called it “one of the most raucous news conferences I’ve seen in quite a while at the State Capitol.”
Supporters of legalizing recreational marijuana in Minnesota mostly hijacked a news conference by opponents of legalization. Here’s a sample of one of the most raucous news conferences I’ve seen in quite a while at the State Capitol. More tonight on 5 Eyewitness News. pic.twitter.com/PMju8m0vQB
— Tom Hauser (@thauserkstp) January 16, 2019
“Today, we attempted to have a discussion of the science behind marijuana and voice our concerns with legalization,” Smart Approaches to Marijuana Minnesota wrote in a statement. “Unfortunately we were shouted down by legalization supporters. Minnesotans deserve better than this and we will continue sharing our concerns with legislators.”
Today, we attempted to have a discussion of the science behind marijuana and voice our concerns with legalization. Unfortunately we were shouted down by legalization supporters. Minnesotans deserve better than this and we will continue sharing our concerns with legislators.
— Smart Approaches to Marijuana Minnesota (@learnaboutSAMMn) January 16, 2019
As The Minnesota Sun has previously reported, the pro-legalization movement has significant momentum in Minnesota. Both issue-based marijuana parties in the state earned major-party status during the midterms, meaning they will receive automatic placement on ballots, can qualify for state subsidies, and are much more likely to qualify for debates.
Gov. Tim Walz (D-MN) and Attorney General Keith Ellison are both in favor of legalization, and the St. Paul City Council recently voted to add legalization to its list of legislative priorities.
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