The Potluck

Gov. Walz proposes legalizing marijuana and spending $2.3 billion on health and public safety

By: - January 26, 2022 4:07 pm

The Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul as the sun sets on Election Day, November 3, 2020. Photo by Tony Webster.

Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan unveiled a sweeping package of health and public safety proposals Wednesday that would cost nearly $2.3 billion over three years.

Walz and Flanagan’s supplemental budget recommendations include a slew of policies the governor says will lower crime rates and improve health outcomes. They include creating grants for preventive policing, legalizing marijuana for adults and establishing a public health insurance option. 

“This is a comprehensive, modern approach to public safety that was built with every neighborhood in mind,” Walz said in a news release.

With the 2022 legislative session just days away, Walz and legislative leaders this week have been rolling out their funding wish lists and gearing up for tough negotiations over how to spend the state’s projected $7.7 billion budget surplus. Walz’s full slate of recommendations, spanning infrastructure to public safety, total more than $12 billion over three years.

Walz also proposed legalizing recreational marijuana for adults; previously, he had said he would sign a bill to do so. The Minnesota House passed a bill to legalize marijuana last session, but it didn’t advance in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Walz’s cannabis proposal includes a tax on marijuana, a measure to expunge non-violent marijuana-related convictions, the creation of a Cannabis Management Office and resources for substance-abuse prevention and treatment. 

Public safety is a top issue for both parties this session, as Minnesota — like states across the country — is in the midst of a surge in violent crime. Walz proposes sending $300 million in public safety funding to local governments and $9 million for body cams for agencies across the state, as well as increasing investigative support for law enforcement seeking to address violent crime.

To improve health care access, Walz and Flanagan propose creating a buy-in option for MinnesotaCare, the state’s subsidized insurance program for low-income people. That would allow some people who don’t currently qualify to opt in to MinnesotaCare. They also recommend increasing funding for the state’s programs to maintain affordable housing and prevent homelessness.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a former data reporter for the Minnesota Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.