“We know who is in Congress matters when it comes to passing major policies like this.”

Baylor Spears, Minnesota Reformer

Now that Minnesota legalized hemp-derived THC products on July 1, proponents of full legalization are activating a new resource in the political battle over the future of green plants: customers.

Josh Wilken-Simon, Minnesotans Policy Director for Responsible Marijuana Regulation, said he estimates that 700,000 Minnesotans are cannabis consumers. It’s not politically active, so what we really want to do is try to identify these individuals and get them to vote to increase voter turnout.”

Proponents of cannabis legalization want to replicate the success of other industry lobbying campaigns that turn consumers of products such as guns and outdoor gear into political activists.

They think of people like 31-year-old St. Louis Park resident Gus Wacott. He regularly rents the back room of Legacy Glassworks (an uptown glass pipe shop that also sells cannabis products) to work on his business. glass blowing project.

Watcott said he supports legalization, but he doesn’t always vote in local or state elections. said he struggled to sort through information about individual candidates.

“[Legalization] It has to happen at some point,” Watcott said. “Tables are turning it on everywhere. Me and most of my friends agree it’s just a matter of time.”

The MNisReady Coalition, a partnership between local advocacy groups and cannabis businesses, hopes to use customer loyalty and access to email addresses to convert casual voters into avid legalized voters.

In Minnesota, while Senate Republicans have blocked it, it could be a boon to the Democrats, Farmers and Labor parties, who have been pushing for legalization for several years. Hundreds of votes in a handful of battleground legislative districts make it difficult for Democrats to fully control the legislature. However, the continued existence of the grassroots Legalized Cannabis Party and the Legalized Marijuana Party has complicated politics.

The coalition is capitalizing on the explosion in cannabis sales following the recent legalization of hemp-derived THC foods and beverages in Minnesota. They plan to meet potential voters at businesses they buy cannabis products from and talk to them about the November election.

Wilken-Simon of Minnesota for Responsible Marijuana Regulation is also the owner of Legacy Glassworks. He said lines were out the door in the first days after the recent legalization. I wondered why it took so long for the to move.

Without a majority in favor of legalization in both houses, that would be impossible. In 2021, he voted 72-61 for the Minnesota House of Representatives to approve her HF600. The bill would legalize recreational marijuana use and expunge most marijuana convictions. The State Senate never voted on the bill.

The coalition’s goal is to build a majority of cannabis legalization supporters in the Minnesota legislature this year, laying the groundwork for full legalization in 2023.

“The first step is to educate voters about the position of the candidate,” said Coalition director Maren Schroeder. “We know who is in Congress matters when it comes to passing major policies like this.”

They’re producing a 2022 legalization voter’s guide that includes candidates’ previous statements on cannabis and a candidate questionnaire. This reflects the efforts of traditional interest groups on issues such as guns, abortion and the environment.

Schroeder said he is seeking help from companies to put the guide directly into the hands of cannabis voters. Membership retailers will leverage her list of corporate customers’ emails and distribute flyers with her QR code that links to the voter guide, she said.

Grounded Gardens, a cannabis farm and CBD store in Silver Lake, is one of the Coalition’s industry partners.

Owner Bridget Beske Pinder said the company would be able to reach out to corners of the state that individual advocacy groups may not have access to.

“My farmer is in Hutchinson, Minnesota, so I can go there and talk to them about cannabis and hemp and legalization on a different scale. [others] There is no business there,” said Bethke Pinder. “I actually grow the plants, process them and make all the products in their country, so they will listen to me a little more.”

The coalition is still working out the details, but Veske Pinder said emailing customers about the coalition is similar to sending coupons.

“[Like] Let them know we have a sale in our store, let them know about MNisReady, and let them know who the candidates are in support of legalization.

Wilken-Simon said Legacy Glassworks is considering offering customers the option to sign a pledge to vote, in addition to discounts and small gifts such as lighters. He’s also considering donating glassblowing classes and handmade pipes to raise funds for the coalition.

Nothing But Hemp, one of the Midwest’s first hemp dispensaries, is another business partner of the Coalition. CEO Stephen Brown said his business had previously used its customer base to support the cannabis industry by recruiting customers to complete surveys on hemp product use. They provided data to the Minnesota Pharmacy Commission and the Department of Agriculture.

Brown said he was ready to involve customers in getting the legalization passed. The company has served more than 100,000 customers in recent years, he said.

This story was first published by the Minnesota Reformer.

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