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Debate over recreational marijuana in Minnesota gets hot

Could Minnesota become the next state to legalize recreational marijuana?

Supporters and opponents of the bid to make recreational cannabis legal recently faced off in a shouting match that was caught on camera during a news interview at the State Capitol.

Numerous other states -- including Colorado and California -- have already decriminalized recreational use of the drug. The idea of recreational cannabis has been gaining ground for some time throughout the nation. Many see the decriminalization of marijuana altogether a logical step now that medical use of the drug has largely been widely accepted. Quite a few supporters also see it as necessary for social change.

The strict enforcement of marijuana laws is often perceived as an issue that disproportionately affects young black men. Supporters of legalization told government officials heartbreaking stories of how the prosecution of marijuana use has destroyed the lives of friends and family members over the years. One advocate stated that marijuana is "a tool that police officers use to attack black men."

It's clear from the intensity of the debate on the Capitol floor that the issue is far from settled in Minnesota, even as states like New York and Illinois are likely to take the step toward decriminalization this year. Despite evidence to the contrary, some opponents persist in seeing marijuana as that bugbear known as a "gateway drug," and the precursor to many societal ills like burglary and other crimes.

For now, it's important for citizens of Minnesota to remember that marijuana is still illegal under both federal and state laws. If you're caught with marijuana in your possession, charges are likely to follow. Make sure that you have strong, effective representation on your side to protect your rights.

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