April Fools’ Day might not seem like the best date to discuss serious political issues, but the Theater of Public Policy has a crazy way of morphing expectations and delivering a refreshing, hilarious way to suss out the messiness of politics. This was especially true last night regarding the especially messy politics of legalizing marijuana. Guests Melisa Franzen (49, DFL) and Leili Fatehi (Minnesotans for Responsible Marijuana Regulation-MRMR) were perfect complements to each other. Senator Franzen spoke from an objective distance about the state of things at the Capitol, and Fatehi spoke from a clear and centered activist agenda on lobby efforts to affect policy and usher in representatives who will push legalization forward.
For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of ToPP, it’s pretty straightforward. The exquisitely dressed, coiffed, and named Tane Danger hosts a couple of experts, asking a series of questions that define the issue and give a critique of the issue’s current status in legislative circles. While this is happening, a group of improvisational artists observe from the stage. Then, things get nutty.
The guests and Tane hop off the stage, and the improvisers, well, they improvise. I’m not really sure how they get the courage to do it, but they don’t discuss or plan anything. They just jump out and start letting things happen. Awkward beginnings, but virtually every skit led to a funny and insightful set of comments about what the guests were discussing.
This process happens twice, the second time with questions coming from the audience. (And here’s a fun trick: before the Q&A, Tane instructed those of us with a question to lean over to our neighbour, introduce ourselves, and practice asking the question. My neighbour was Bruce, and both of us ended up on the mic with a query).
Last night’s crowd skewed towards retiree age, which was surprising at first, but the questions revealed a keen interest in Medical Marijuana access, and a not so predictable passion for Social Equity and clearing the records of those unjustly affected by the War on Drugs. Most of the evening’s spontaneous applause for the experts came during impassioned calls for social equity, repairing lives of marginalized communities, and a proactive distribution of opportunity as legal marijuana markets flourish.
Senator Franzen was less optimistic than Fatehi about the potential for a recreational marijuana bill to make it to the floor this year, but both assured the audience that the conversation was still very active despite the recent setback for Franzen’s SF 619 bill (voted down by committee in March). Fatehi is intensely confident that Minnesota is ready, this is a ballot issue, and MRMR will see to it that constituents (who overwhelmingly approve legalization across Minnesota) will get the representatives they deserve to push it through. Franzen also went on to laud the rapid advancements in CBD and Industrial Hemp markets, citing last week’s Grand Opening of Stigma Hemp.
CALL TO ACTION
Sign up to get involved with Minnesotans for Responsible Marijuana Regulation (MRMR) here.
MRMR is a 501(c)(4) organization working to inform and engage with our fellow Minnesotans, Minnesota state legislators, and other Minnesota policymakers about the issues, research, and facts around legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana in a fair, reasonable, and responsible manner. Our statewide, multi-partisan coalition spans government, industry, non-profit, and civil society.