Alternatives to the War on Drugs

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz says he intends to sign legal, recreational cannabis into law. To help Minnesota State students understand the current state laws and what life in Minnesota would look like with legal marijuana use, the Department of Sociology invited Dr. Ryan Steel to give a lecture over Zoom Friday.

The event was co-hosted by Assistant Professor Aaron Hoy and was part of Minnesota State University’s “Research Month” events in April.

Steel currently teaches Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Richmond in Virginia as a guest lecturer and used to teach at the University of Minnesota- where he completed his Ph.D in 2022. His research focuses on drug laws and how the notoriously restrictive medical cannabis program in Minnesota is the result of a stigmatizing half-century of criminal prosecution for use of the plant.

According to Steel, “Virtually no social institutions have been untouched by the Drug War, including medicine, criminal justice, the state, corporate manufacturing, the family, labor and culture.”

In his lecture, he talked about the history of medical cannabis, beginning with its bountiful use in the early 20th century United States to the mid-century War on Drugs to the gradual return to legalization for medical purposes. 

Minnesota became the first state to legalize THC edibles for adults 21 and older in July 2022. These products must be derived from legally certified hemp, either Delta 8 or Delta 9, and can contain up to five milligrams of THC per serving. 

Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2014, and possession of 42.5 grams or less is charged as a misdemeanor punishable by fine with no prison time. As for prescribed medical cannabis use, those with illnesses or treatments causing “severe or chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, or cachexia or severe wasting” can qualify for cannabis use in controlled amounts, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

The DFL party currently controls the state senate, house and governorship, meaning more legal cannabis legislation has a better chance of passing and signed into law than it has with past leadership.

Sen. Lindsay Port and Rep. Zack Stephenson, both DFL, began the 2023 legislative session in January by introducing two bills legalizing cannabis with regulations — SF 73, and HF 100. They are both currently being reviewed by the legislature.

Walz entered January’s legislative session by tweeting his goal on Jan. 5: “It’s time to legalize adult-use cannabis and expunge cannabis convictions in Minnesota. I’m ready to sign it into law.”

Hoy said the full lecture will be posted on the MSU Department of Sociology’s YouTube page alongside his March 30 lecture on the Fight for Marriage Equality.

Write to Carly Bahr at

2 thoughts on “Alternatives to the War on Drugs

  • legal market plz

    Objectively harmless in comparison to other substances; still illegal and will just barely squeek by. This country is awful and it’s rhetoric is doubly so.

  • Prohibition has failed and even the most unhinged are failing to change the narrative with their make-believe. Chefs kiss


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