How New Minnesota Cannabis Affects Neighboring States

Hey Heartland (America’s Upper-Midwest) – It May be Time to Check Your Stigma

Roughly a decade ago, a third of US States had extremely limited medical cannabis programs and only a handful had adult-use (formerly, ‘recreational’) programs. Public support for legalization was as low as 10% in 1970, reaching the crucial 50% in the early 2010s. The country was beginning its path from full illegality (due to propaganda and stigma throughout the 20th century; factors like the ‘War on Drugs’) to medical legality (i.e., classification and regulations similar to pharmaceuticals and pharmacies) to full legality (i.e., classification and regulations similar to alcohol and liquor stores).

The Numbers Don’t Lie

Today, three out of four Americans live in a state with at least a medical program (if not adult-use as well). Half of US Adults live in a state with an adult-use program. There are nearly 15,000 cannabis dispensaries in the United States (and pharmacies and liquor stores are only 2-3x, respectively). Four out of five Americans live in a county with at least one dispensary. And public support of legalization has almost flipped, from 10% in 1970 to 90% by 2025.

News Flash: Over the decade, the sky didn’t fall. Legalization is working. Perhaps a decade ago those who were anti-cannabis were holding a door closed with one hand. Today, they are sitting on the tracks as the legalization train is barreling down.


Cannabis is Not Just a Passing Fad

The context above is provided to illustrate just how mainstream cannabis businesses are these days. It is not a ‘coastal’ thing, a ‘hippie/stoner’ thing, nor a ‘city’ or ‘young adult’ thing. Whether on the yuppie-hustle streets of New York or Los Angeles, or on the back porch of a ‘one stoplight town’ in North Dakota, Americans generally support the legalization (and safe, highly regulated consumption) of cannabis. This is no longer a divisive geo-, socio-, political issue. This is an American trend.

Why Are Midwest States Opting In To Cannabis?

Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan have led the upper-Midwest’s progress with cannabis programs. Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Dakotas are falling behind. But what does that mean? First, not supporting access to a consensus effective medicine for your family and friends (neighbors within your state) is just wrong. These medical patients need medicine, period. They will get it. If you make it difficult, citizens often resort to growing their own (usually, illegally, and can cause self-harm since they are not medical professionals). Or, they will buy from neighboring states and bring it home.

The Cost of Cannabis Prohibition Loses More than Dollars

Neighboring states that lag states like Minnesota are not ‘keeping weed away’ for the perceived safety of their population (i.e., ‘reefer madness’). They are losing touch, denying access to sick patients, and losing crucial and readily available tax revenue and jobs from this industry. Look no further than Colorado’s unemployment rate and public schools ranking (due to tax revenue allocation) from 2010 to 2020 (vs. Wyoming, Kansas, etc.).


A ‘Conservative Way’ of Looking at Cannabis

No pro-cannabis adult is asking any anti-cannabis adult to consume (or force their friends/family to consume) cannabis any more than a pro-pharma or pro-alcohol adult. If you’re just ‘still not sure about this plant’, you should at least not be against its legalization. It boils down to tax revenue and a freer market at the macro level and individual choice and job availability at the micro level.

What Slow-Moving States are Missing

These days, more conservative states that haven’t yet pushed for cannabis legalization have taken a ‘wait and see’ or ‘little here, little there’ approach. They might have thriving alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceutical, or other industries (oil & gas, manufacturing, etc.); states like Wisconsin and the Dakotas. They might decriminalize possession but feel full cannabis legalization is an unnecessary risk if unemployment and tax revenues are in ‘decent shape.’ But they are missing the true opportunity cost as their constituents are simply traveling to neighboring states to get their medicine, even jobs, and provide that state with tax revenue.

Are You Protecting Your People or Your Industry?

Another frontier is simply cannabis products themselves and how their consumption fits into the existing state culture and economy. Once over the old stigma around cannabis, it’s hard to see a reason cannabis is illegal. Often those alcohol and pharma states will lobby to keep cannabis illegal (and leverage the stigma). But are they being forthright? Are they appealing to their (conservative) constituents? It is widely tracked that the introduction of legal cannabis often leads to a 10-20% decrease in the sales and consumption of adjacent industries like alcohol, tobacco, and pharma.

So, if there is no stigma around cannabis, are we just protecting old, less attractive industries from new, more attractive industries? That’s not aligned with the traditionally conservative ‘free market’, ‘less government intervention’, and ‘more individual liberty’ mindset. If only Pepsi was legal in Wisconsin (while Coke was illegal), but the average US adult finds themselves happier, safer, a better partner/parent/employee, etc. when they consume Coke, legally (and consume less Pepsi), then the free market seems to support Coke more than (or at least as much as) Pepsi. The market is not saying to change any laws on Pepsi; it’s just saying, ‘why not treat Coke like Pepsi’? Pepsi (an arguably inferior product in this metaphor for alcohol, tobacco, etc.) should not be protected by the continued outlawing of Coke (cannabis in this metaphor), presumably only for Pepsi’s own economic benefit at the detriment to society.


Minnesota’s Neighbor States: Time to Advocate For Cannabis

The bottom line is that it is not prudent for a state to hold out on cannabis legalization. As Minnesota’s cannabis program comes online, it will follow the positive trends of the states before it. And Minnesota’s neighbors (e.g., the Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin) will suffer the consequences of the negative trends of border/neighbor states to newly legalized states.

If you’d like to get a head start on winning a cannabis business license, reach out to our cannabis experts today or Book a Consultation for quick one-on-one session. You may be surprised with the progress (and how close) your state is to legalization!

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