A sleeper issue has emerged among DFL candidates in the 2018 governor’s race: Marijuana.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, state Reps. Erin Murphy, Tina Liebling and Paul Thissen, and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz all support legalizing marijuana for recreational and not just medical use. Among the major DFL candidates, only State Auditor Rebecca Otto declined to do so.
“When you confront the reality of the cost of criminalization vs. the benefits of legalization, I think the benefits outweigh the costs,” said Coleman, whose campaign approached the Star Tribune to discuss the issue.
The candidates’ sudden embrace of marijuana legalization underscores how quickly the issue is moving and illustrates the rapid changes underway in the DFL Party.
A federal judge has put a temporary stop to construction on the Red River flood diversion project while a court challenge brought by Minnesota and other opponents proceeds.
U.S. District Judge John Tunheim agreed the $2.1 billion project requires permits from Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources, and without them work affecting Minnesota waters must stop.
The diversion plan calls for a large levee to be built south of Fargo-Moorhead to hold back flood waters from the Red River and divert them into a 30-mile-long channel around the cities. A permit was required because the Minnesota DNR considered the levee to be a high-hazard dam.
Opponents say the project will flood farmland and displace residents south of Fargo-Moorhead, while protecting land that is currently in the floodplain in North Dakota. They argue that options other than the diversion should have been considered and that the current diversion design should be modified to reduce upstream impacts.
Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger on Thursday blamed “diseases of despair” as his agency reported another increase in substance abuse deaths.
“Minnesotans are suffering on what we’re calling diseases of despair,” Ehlinger said during a news conference in St. Paul, defining those diseases as chronic pain, depression, substance abuse and suicide. “It’s brought on in part by a lack of hope, a lack of opportunity and a lack of a pass out of poverty.”
Drug overdose deaths among Minnesota residents increased from 583 in 2015 to 637 in 2016, based on preliminary data, the Health Department reported. That’s an increase of just over 9 percent and represents a six-fold increase since 2000.
Opioid prescriptions in the state dropped at the same time, by 8.6 percent from 2015 to 2016. Prescription pain pills have been widely cited as contributing to the national epidemic of opioid misuse.