FARMINGTON - Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, questioned two speakers on the benefits and drawbacks of recreational marijuana at a town hall on Wednesday night.
Garofalo hosted pro-legalization advocate and former Republican state Sen. Branden Petersen and Ken Winters, the research advisor for anti-commercial marijuana legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana Minnesota, at Farmington High School for about 60 people. Petersen spoke in support of recreational legalization, with Winters speaking against, and Garofalo asked them a series of "devil's advocate" style and attendee questions.
"This is a very complex issue that all people need to be involved in," Garofalo said in an interview after the town hall. "Right now we need to be studying the issue and understanding it."
Garofalo said legislators and the public need more information before they can make a determination on legalizing recreational marijuana, which is one of the reasons he chose the town hall's format.
Neither speaker directly debated with one another's points throughout the almost two-hour event and Garofalo did not take a hard stance on the issue.
Petersen's argument centered around the ineffectiveness of prohibiting the drugs, while noting the racial disparities in arrests stemming from marijuana. Winters argued that the negative health effects of marijuana on youth justified holding legalization to a medical level.
Garofalo pointed to the current rating of marijuana as a "Schedule 1" drug, alongside other drugs like heroin and LSD, as a restriction on research of health effects of marijuana.
"There was one issue that people were (agreeing) on ... change the scheduling so we can investigate the issues," Garofalo said.
He said that he's heard from people in House District 58B that they are not necessarily for or against legalization, but hope for an informed solution. As for Garfalo, he said it's not a pressing concern for him right now and that he's more concerned with things like the cost of health care and road conditions throughout the state.
The push to legalize recreational marijuana is effectively dead in Minnesota this year. In March, a GOP-led Senate committee voted against moving a recreational marijuana bill forward for a vote.
Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom was initially scheduled to speak in Winter's place, but was unable to attend due to illness.