Listen to the moment when activists disrupted an anti-marijuana legalization press conference

"Marijuana is a tool that police officers use to attack black men"

Susie Jones
January 16, 2019 - 4:01 pm
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A press conference put on by a group opposed to the legalization of marijuana at the State Capitol in St Paul was quickly disrupted Thursday when those in favor of legalization  jeered and laughed during the event.

 The group Smart Approaches to Marijuana Minnesota argues that making cannabis legal will increase access and use of the drug among young people, increased impaired drivers, and increase visits to the emergency room.

Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom was among those speaking against legalization. "Less than one half of one percent of the individuals in Minnesota prisons are there for marijuana use," said Backstrom.

To the issue of impaired driving Backstrom said: "Since recreational marijuana was legal in Colorado in 2013, marijuana related traffic deaths have increased 151% percent."

The response to that from the back of the room: "Why don't you quit lying up there at the podium," said John Thompson, whose friend Philando Castille was killed by a police officer in July of 2016.   

When the press conference was opened up to questions, Thompson stood up.

"I have a question," he said standing at the front of the room. "A friend of mine had a half of an ounce of weed in his car, and the officer pulled him over for a broken tail light, and the officer smelled burnt marijuana in the car. Ultimately my friend was shot six times by a police officer."

Thompson said he is neither for or against legalizing the drug. Instead, he wants to see the decriminalization of marijuana, where people of color are often targeted.

"We got crack heads living in our community, we got white men that's addicted to Percocet living in our community and we don't see you all criminalizing that," he shouted. "So don't sit up there and tell me that marijuana is not a tool that police officers use to attack black men."

There are several groups working to get a bill passed legalizing marijuana. Governor Tim Walz supports the idea but said he wants to hear more discussion before moving forward.

Related: 

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey pushes for legal weed

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