Marijuana advocates in Minnesota campaigning against legalization parties, infiltrators, in key swing districts

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The fundamental political dilemma facing those who want Minnesota to join 19 States and District of Columbia who have legalized recreational marijuana is: Do they run their candidates or support DFLers who promise to legalize it?

MinnPost photo taken by Peter Callaghan
Michael Ford


One of the leaders in the separate party approach has changed his strategy. Michael Ford, the chair of The



Legal Marijuana Now



(LMN Party) It helped it achieve major party status in 2018, and is now a cofounder in a coalition to assist DFLers during battleground races. The specifics of the



MN is Ready



The organization will target races in which marijuana party candidates could siphon votes from DFLers to help Republicans win.

From 2015 to 2019, Ford was the chair of one of two legalization parties. He won major party rights for LMN in 2018 by winning less than 5 percent of state auditor’s vote. Noah Johnson, who won 5.7 per cent of the vote to become attorney general, also earned major party status with the aligned Grassroots – Legalize Cannabis Party (GLC) at the same time.


Ford claims that this wasn’t the intention. Instead, marijuana activists wanted to show other parties that they were supportive of the issue and that it wasn’t a political handicap.


Ford stated that he organized a campaign to get candidates on ballots for the election in order to maintain minor party status. We didn’t anticipate to be granted major party status. It was quite unexpected. It was an attempt to get enough votes to ensure that legislators saw the issue and would take it seriously span>

Unintended consequences were the result of gaining major party status. By registering signatures on a petition, minor parties can control who runs under their party’s name. Major parties do not. Anyone with a filing fee in 2020 could be eligible to run under either of these legalization parties. Some did this because they believed the issue was important. However, some candidates ran with closer ties than the LMN and GLC parties. This resulted in close races.

The DFL House leadership tried to convince pro-legalization voters their candidates were the best way for them to achieve legalization. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley), House Majority Leader, led a tour across the state to collect testimony. He then pushed House File 600 through Congress. It was rejected by the Senate.

Minnesota House DFL
Ryan Winkler, House Majority Leader, uses the Minnesota State Fair as a backdrop to announce that DFL legislators will tour the state in order to receive feedback that will inform a 2020 legalization bill.

Former state Rep. Brad Tabke


Ford has resigned from Legal Marijuana Now. He stated that he was worried about the party’s inability to call out some questionable candidates in 2020 and even endorsing several fake candidates. He is the executive director of the Minnesota affiliate for the national marijuana legalization organisation NORML. A MN Is Ready founding member, he has worked with DFLers and other advocates in the state Legislature to expand access. He was a key advocate for the relatively obscure effort to allow the sale hemp-based THC edibles.


span style=”font weight: 400 This year, we hope to inform voters that voting for Legal Marijuana Now and Grassroots candidates won’t get us closer towards legalization. Ford stated that it can actually harm us. “The only way to get there is by Republicans saying, “hey, we changed our mind”, or by electing legislators .”


The LMN has a slate of candidates. However, the Grassroots party does not have one. Oliver Steinberg, one of the party’s founders, is focused on finding spoiler candidates by using the party name.

Steinberg stated in May that parties were caught off-guard in 2020, but will not be in this election.


Steinberg stated that they know what they’re up against and that if they try to encourage people to act fraudulently, they could do so again. Steinberg added, “I will follow the fair campaign practices laws laws laws, which we have,” Steinberg said.


Spoiler alert

Leili Fatehi is a lobbyist and political consultant who has worked for many years on legalizing marijuana. Blunt Strategies is her partner. She was also a strategist behind House DFL Legalization Bill 2021. Minnesotans for Responsible Cannabis Regulation was also founded by her.

Leili Fatehi


Fatehi announced that she will be leading an independent, organized expenditure campaign to spend money on targeted districts in which a legalization candidate can make the difference between winning or losing the DFL election. Fatehi stated that it will be difficult to reach those voters who consider legalization their top concern. They are not as involved in politics as single-issue candidates.


span style=”font weight: 400 That’s why it is important that we do this in collaboration and with leaders from the third-party movement who are easily identifiable to single-issue marijuana voters,” she stated. Some momentum has been provided by the recent legalization for THC-infused edibles.


Fatehi stated that this election cycle was very exciting. “It feels as if the community has really merged together that hasn’t existed before .”

An independent effort will be lead by Maren Schröderspan styling=”font-weight 400 ;”>, Sensible Change Minnesota’s policy director for recreational and medical legalization advocates SensibleChange MN. This is the voter registration and voter outreach campaign. It cannot endorse or advocate for any candidates. Schroeder uses data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health to estimate how many Minnesotans use marijuana in each legislative district.


Schroeder stated that the challenge is convincing voters to vote for candidates who have a legal marijuana party under their names. Candidates who promise to support legalization will receive a seal of approval from the coalition that can be used on campaign materials and mailers.


Schroeder stated that the new coalition will seek to raise money from legalization advocates as well as from those who could profit from a new market. This includes retailers and producers of hemp-derived THC edibles. This could prove to be a challenge.


span style=”font weight: 400 There’s been a lot done on the advocacy side for little to no pay, while private industry is making lots of money,” she stated. This money has not yet been used to support politics or advocacy for issues.

Corey Day


Corey Day is a public relations consultant and was previously the Minnesota DFL’s executive director. Although he is not involved in the MN Is Ready organization, Corey Day created it three years ago.



Cannabis for Economic Growth



In the hopes of tapping into industry financing to support legalization. Day was particularly interested in promoting social and racial equity in any legalization program. This means that communities and people of color who have suffered the most from marijuana’s criminal laws would be able to reap the economic benefits of legalization.


Day stated that it was hard to get support from the industry, both within and outside of state. These cash sources might not be needed, given the way that the coalition is organized.


Day stated that it will be easier to raise funds when you target competitive Democratic seats with the blessings of the DFL caucuses or the DFL party. You’ll see the same donors who give to the Senate caucus and the House caucus in their disclosure reports. It’s unlikely that you will see outside business interests wanting to participate in this market .”

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