Pot Party Faces Ironic Scrutiny From Democrats Over Law

Pot Party Faces Ironic Scrutiny From Democrats Over Law

Image by Dan Vacek: Legal Marijuana Now Party rally on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol, April 29, 2023.

DFL petitions Minnesota Supreme Court to revoke major political party status of marijuana party

by Michelle Griffith, Minnesota Reformer
February 7, 2024

The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party asked the state Supreme Court on Tuesday to decertify the Legal Marijuana Now Party as a major political party. The DFL alleges the Legal Marijuana Now Party hasn’t complied with the state’s new election laws, and that its recent nomination of a presidential primary candidate against her wishes illustrates the party’s disregard for the law.

DFL Chair Ken Martin also wants the court to order Secretary of State Steve Simon to bar Legal Marijuana Now from nominating a presidential candidate.

Democrats have an interest in seeing the Legal Marijuana Now Party — one of two parties driven to legalize what is now legal — lose its major party status. (The other, Grassroots Legalize Cannabis Party, is now a minor party.)

Republicans have at times seemed to collude with pot party candidates in an effort to siphon votes away from Democratic candidates in close congressional and legislative races, enraging some Democrats. The campaign treasurer of the Legal Marijuana Now Party candidate in the 2nd Congressional District race in 2022, for instance, posted a photo of herself with a flag depicting President Donald Trump photoshopped as “Rambo” holding a bazooka.

Major party status confers significant advantages, especially ballot access, negating the need for the expensive and onerous process of collecting signatures to appear on the ballot. The secretary of state’s office declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

Dennis Schuller, chair of the Legal Marijuana Now Party, told the Reformer Tuesday he was unaware of the lawsuit, but said he wasn’t surprised because the DFL and GOP parties have long been hostile to outsiders.

“They don’t feel like we’re worthy of being part of the political system. They’ve made rules to try to eliminate us,” Schuller said, citing the new election laws passed by the DFL-controlled Legislature. 

The Minnesota Legislature last session created new criteria for major party status. To qualify, a party must hold local conventions and have executive committees for at least 45 counties or legislative districts, and must submit documentation that includes the list of dates and locations of those conventions during a general election year. 

The DFL in its court filing includes correspondence between Schuller and the Office of the Secretary of State. Schuller, in his first letter seeking major party status, said the party held conventions in June 2022 and in April 2023. In a second letter, Schuller said the June 2022 convention was for “state, congressional district, county and legislative district conventions.”

The secretary of state’s office told the Legal Marijuana Now Party it needed to submit specific dates and locations of the conventions. Schuller submitted a third letter, which included a list of the party’s 2022 conventions. The list consisted of its state convention, eight legislative district conventions and 67 legislative district or county conventions, all held on the same date in June 2022 at an address in Bloomington and online via Zoom.

The DFL in its filing said it was “implausible” for the marijuana party to hold all its conventions, including its state convention, on the same day at the same location and via Zoom. In addition, the Legal Marijuana Now Party stated in a Facebook invite that the state convention was one-hour long.

“It is practically and logistically impossible for 76 separate conventions to be held on one day, let alone one hour, and in one location,” the DFL’s court filing states. “It is infeasible for 76 bodies of delegates to complete the business of each unit in one hour at one location.”

The filing also states that the Legal Marijuana Now Party is ineligible to participate in the presidential election because state law only allows a major party to do so if it holds a national convention, and the DFL says in its court filing that it does not.

The DFL also cited recent reporting that found one of the Legal Marijuana Now Party candidates did not consent to being on the party’s ballot for the presidential primary. The Star Tribune last week reported that the party placed Colorado resident Krystal Gabel on the Minnesota presidential primary without her knowledge. Gabel said she learned of her candidacy through a Google alert. 

“The (Legal Marijuana Now) Party’s disregard for the requirements of Minnesota election law is underscored by its purported participation in the presidential nomination primary and designation of at least one candidate for that election who neither requested nor consented to appear on the ballot,” the DFL said in its court filing.

The DFL said Simon — a Democrat in his third term — made an error in certifying the marijuana party as a major political party and asked the Supreme Court to correct it. 

The Legislature legalized low-dose THC edibles and drinks in 2022 and fully legalized cannabis last year. Licensed dispensaries are expected to come online in early 2025, making the pot parties’ mandates increasingly obscure. 

Schuller said even though marijuana use is now legal for adults in Minnesota, the party is focused on federal legalization and is more broadly centered on representing the state’s independent voters. 

“It’s a great symbol of what we stand for, but it’s more than just the leaf,” Schuller said. “We don’t dictate the candidates, what and how they should believe. We support them.”

Minnesota Reformer is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Minnesota Reformer maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Patrick Coolican for questions: info@minnesotareformer.com. Follow Minnesota Reformer on Facebook and Twitter.

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