News Article Details

One Minnesota: Walz talks marijuana, mental health in FF

Fergus Falls Daily Journal - 12/3/2018

Dec. 01--In the packed City Council chambers of the Fergus Falls City Hall, the future governor of Minnesota Tim Walz addressed Minnesotans from all over Otter Tail County and greater Minnesota.

"Minnesota once again was first in the nation in voter turnout that speaks volumes to civic participation and it's six o'clock and you're here and you're here because you love this state."

Introduced by Mayor of Fergus Falls Ben Schierer, Walz continued his One Minnesota public engagement tour across Minnesota stopping each quarter of the state.

"This started this morning with standing room only in Rochester and here we are with standing room only in Fergus Falls at 6 o'clock tonight so I think this One Minnesota thing is catching on," Schierer said.

Also in attendance at the event to hear the governor-elect speak were many local community leaders including Otter Tail County Attorney Michelle Eldien, President of M State Carrie Brimhall, Superintendent Jerry Ness, Mayor of Elbow Lake Deb Hengel, former Fergus Falls Mayor Hal Leland, Minnesota Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen and more.

The future governor was asked many questions relating to his future work including how he will appoint commissioners and suggestions for who he should appoint, education, the Minnesota welfare system, the legalization of marijuana, decriminalizing mental health, and many more.

"In Colorado, two years ago they legalized marijuana," said an audience member who identified himself as a U.S. veteran and asked about Walz's recent comments about the potential of legalizing marijuana. "I read a natural public safety board analysis that said those two years traffic accidents that have caused serious injuries or fatalities have gone up something like 36 percent in Colorado."

This sparked a debate between Walz and the veteran and another member of the audience, promoting Walz's response.

"I'm not advocating and I don't make light of the societal implications of whether it be opioid abuse, whether it be alcohol abuse, whatever it be, what I'm saying is we put an incredible amount of resources into a war against marijuana that is not winning. We are spending massive amounts of money and we are not winning."

A topic that came up several times throughout the event was that of mental health and drug addiction, and how it is integrated into the U.S. prison and justice systems. One audience member told his daughter's story of bipolar disorder and addiction, and the path it has taken her in life.

"She has been in prison and jail, and prison and jail, and a treatment center that she might make it through. I find that unfathomable. She has been kicked out of a treatment center for throwing a remote control at somebody. Which that is why she is there, because of her behavior, because of her impulse control."

Both Walz and Sen. Ingebrigtsen agreed to work with the audience member on the issues his daughter was facing.

The event contained many more topics of consideration, going on 30 minutes past its scheduled time. Still many hands were left up at the end of the evening with questions unanswered due to time.

Schierer was recently elected to the governor-elect's transition board continuing a relationship that began during Walz's campaign throughout Minnesota that brought him to Fergus Falls several times.

"You've got a mayor that is deeply involved in policy and he made that case," Walz said. "He said you've got to get out here and talk to these folks who didn't vote for you and tell them why they should. Not necessarily why they should vote for you but why you should serve them."


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