Minnesota Becomes 23rd State To Legalize Recreational Cannabis

Nearly two weeks after the Minnesota legislature voted to legalize cannabis, Tim Walz made good on his promise to give final approval to the legislation this week.

Keegan Williams

On Tuesday, Gov. Tim Walz signed the cannabis legalization bill into law, officially making Minnesota the 23rd state in the nation to legalize recreational cannabis.

At the signing ceremony Tuesday, Walz recognized that prohibition “does not work,” adding that he and fellow lawmakers are looking to start the expungement process for qualifying Minnesotans. Walz also indicated that adults should be able to make their own decisions “around these types of choices.”

“We’ve known for too long that prohibiting the use of cannabis hasn’t worked. By legalizing adult-use cannabis, we’re expanding our economy, creating jobs, and regulating the industry to keep Minnesotans safe,” Walz said. “Legalizing adult-use cannabis and expunging or resentencing cannabis convictions will strengthen communities. This is the right move for Minnesota.”

The 300-page bill allows adults in the state over the age of 21 to use recreational cannabis and looks to transform the current illicit market into regulated, state-licensed businesses around the state. It specifically creates a new regulatory framework to license cannabis businesses to cultivate, manufacture and sell cannabis at retail dispensaries. There are a total of 12 different business licenses a person can apply for in the recreational market, along with additional licenses for medical cannabis.

The legislation also expunges low-level cannabis convictions. The new law will automatically expunge non-felony cannabis offenses, and it will establish a board to review more serious cannabis crimes. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s process of automatically clearing records is set to begin Aug. 1, according to the bill. 

The bill was designed with social equity in mind, granting social equity status to military veterans or active service members denied honorable status because of a cannabis offense, farmers from underrepresented communities and residents of areas which have “experienced a disproportionately large amount of cannabis enforcement.”

It will also set up an Office of Cannabis Management, which will oversee the regulation and sale of cannabis products in Minnesota.

Additionally, the bill legalizes possession of up to two pounds of cannabis in a private residence and limited home cultivation by adults over 21. Out in public, Minnesota adults are allowed up to two ounces. The legislation allows adults to grow up to eight cannabis plants at home, including four mature, flowering plants.

Possession for adults 21 and older will officially be legal in the state starting Aug. 1.

“While Minnesota might be the 23rd state to legalize cannabis, I think we’ve passed the best bill in the country that Minnesotans can be really proud of,” bill co-author Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, told WCCO.

Stephenson also said he expects it will take 12 to 18 months before residents and visitors will be able to go into a store and purchase recreational cannabis products. Specifically, he noted that “we’ll be getting some people into the positions to be able to run this,” while assuring Minnesotans that lawmakers have put “a lot of thought” into the bill and road ahead.

All eyes were on Minnesota as the legislation progressed earlier this year. More than two dozen legislative committees vetted the legislation, with the Minnesota House of Representatives and Senate approving separate cannabis legalization bills in late April. A conference committee reconciled the differences between the bills, followed by House approval of the consensus bill on May 18. It ultimately passed in the Senate on May 20 and headed to Walz’s desk, where it was expected he would sign it into law.

The newly passed legislation is also in line with the public opinion of most Minnesotans. A recent poll from KSTP-TV and SurveyUSA found that 64% of registered voters were in favor of legalizing cannabis for adults. Minnesota legalized medical cannabis back in 2014.

Keegan Williams

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