One-On-One: Gov. Walz Talks Legalizing Marijuana, Mining & Infrastructure

FOX 21's Brett Scott Sits Down for a One-On-One Interview with Minnesota Governor Tim Walz

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Nearly two months after being sworn into office, Minnesota’s 41st Governor, Tim Walz, is not holding back when it comes to environmental issues, recreational marijuana and infrastructure.

“I’m a congressman from Southern Minnesota, I’m from Mankato, but I saw this as one Minnesota throughout my campaign,” said Governor Tim Walz.

Walz is no stranger when it comes to every county in Minnesota.

“I think for me to continue to learn, continue to get that feedback, continue to hear where people are at, critically important,” said Walz.

Walz and his Lt. Governor, Peggy Flanagan, were not holding back during a heated campaign last November. Walz came out on top in the race for Governor, beating
out republican Jeff Johnson with nearly 54 percent of the vote.

“I think one of the things we’re blessed with here is an abundance of natural resources. We’re blessed with incredibly precious outdoor activities and we’re also blessed with potential for economic growth,” said Walz.

During a sit-down interview with FOX 21 Local News, Walz spoke deeply about his passion for making sure proper checks and balances are used when making big decisions.

Just days ago, Walz announced his administration would continue to appeal regulatory approval of the Line 3 pipeline project in northern Minnesota.

This, after state utility regulators last summer approved Enbridge Energy’s plans to build a new 2.6 billion dollar pipeline.

“We need to follow the permitting processes; we need to follow the science, we need to give a clear definition of what our expectations are and they need to be high on the standards of environmental protections, but they also need to not continue to move on how the process goes,” said Walz.

The Governor is also working over the topic of the proposed Copper Nickel Mine near Hoyt Lakes, saying science must come first before the possibility of job creation and economic benefits move forward.

“If it can be done and it can be done safely and it can be done with protections to the state, both the physical protections and financial, then we need to explore that because these are materials we need; whether it’s with taconite or other metals,” said Walz.

During his time on the campaign trail, Walz told Minnesotans during a Star Tribune event, the proposed project sits in “a different watershed and has not yet been explored.”

Walz went on to say if it puts Minnesota’s natural resources at risk, he would not support the project in the future.

“What I would say is follow the process as we have on Polymet with Twin Metals or any other proposed project and let’s base it on its merit with that balancing and making sure we can’t make a mistake on the environment. But there are economic benefits, when it comes to copper there are also environmental benefits that come if you do this right,” said Walz.

While Walz continues to make a final decision on this topic, he is set in stone when it comes to folks in Minnesota getting stoned recreationally.

“The reason I’ve supported this is first of all, prohibition doesn’t work,” said Walz. “Secondly, I certainly support adults to make their decisions. I also think there have been racial disparities in how this law impacts folks.”

The Governor weathering through his campaign even while making his stance on legalizing recreational marijuana very clear. But he won’t be able to make the final decision without approval by the House and Senate.

“I’ve asked them to at least have hearings on it,” said Walz. “If you look at Colorado for instance, they saw about a $200 million dollar increase to education funding that they were able to use, they put a pretty significant amount into addiction treatments and services to make sure we could give folks what they needed.”

Walz says currently the state uses over $40 million dollars per year enforcing laws prohibiting the use of marijuana.

“I think there’s a piece in society where we’ve gotten to the point where adults can make those decisions. We certainly aren’t going to encourage children to use just like we don’t alcohol,” said Walz.

Walz credits himself for fighting to allow the use of recreational marijuana, even during his time in Congress.

“Certainly my interest in cannabis came about because of pain reduction with veterans. I spent a lot of time in congress working on that and in fact passed the first piece of legislation out of a congressional committee in the history of the country dealing with cannabis reform because it was getting people away from opioids and moving them into something else that made a little more sense,” said Walz.

Opioid reform is another hot button item the Governor says we need to continue to combat. But for now, the Governor will continue encouraging lawmakers to improve Minnesota’s infrastructure.

“The one thing I will say as Governor of Minnesota is cities like Duluth should not have to take it upon themselves to pass individual sales taxes to fix the streets because we benefit. We all benefit when Duluth does well and I think seeing a state as one Minnesota, this is where a robust infrastructure package makes sense so it doesn’t just fall on the citizens of Duluth because I drive on the streets when I’m up there too,” said Walz.

Walz emphasized during the interview that Duluth is truly a jewel for the state of Minnesota.

He believes the Northland is an economic engine for the state and promises to continue to drive Minnesota forward with frequent visits to the Northland.

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