[LEARFIELD] ST PAUL — The state Senate votes Friday on a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, after the House passed a companion measure late Tuesday afternoon on a vote of 71-to-59. Republican Jeff Backer from Browns Valley objected saying, “We spent tons of money… on ads to say ‘no’ to smoking. We have a fentanyl crisis, meth crisis, cocaine — and then we’re adding this into the equation?”

Bill sponsor, Coon Rapids Democrat Zach Stephenson, says cannabis does not result in people using more severe narcotics. “In every state — every one — that has legalized cannabis, opioid overdose deaths have decreased.”

Whether the bill can get enough votes to pass in the Senate remains to be seen. A spokesperson said Republicans are not inclined to support the bill, meaning Democrats — with a scant one-vote majority — must get a “yes” vote from every one of their members for the bill to pass. Governor Tim Walz has indicated he’d sign it.

Under the House legislation, those 21 and older could purchase up to two ounces of cannabis and possess a like amount in a public place. They could have up to one-and-a-half pounds in a private dwelling and cultivate up to eight plants, four of which could be mature. And adult could give, without receiving payment, up to two ounces of marijuana to another adult. Petty misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor marijuana convictions would be automatically expunged — but not violent offenses or those involving guns.

The state would license cannabis businesses and local governments could operate dispensaries. But municipalities could not ban cannabis. The House and Senate bills would both tax cannabis, but differences will have to be worked out if the bill passes both chambers.