Nearly a dozen Minnesota cities have passed laws to temporarily ban recreational marijuana dispensaries from opening in their jurisdictions as a new state law legalizing adult-use cannabis is poised to go into effect. Minnesota lawmakers passed the bill, which legalizes marijuana for adults aged 21 and older, in May, and the legislation is slated to go into effect on August 1.
Minnesota’s cannabis legalization bill allows adults 21 and older to use marijuana recreationally and to possess up to two ounces of cannabis in a public place, beginning on August 1. The bill also legalizes the possession of up to two pounds of marijuana in a private residence and the limited home cultivation of cannabis by adults aged 21 and older. Under the legislation, adults would be allowed to grow up to eight cannabis plants at home, including four mature, flowering plants.
The bill also legalizes commercial cannabis activity, with regulated sales of recreational marijuana coming after rules are drafted and approved by the Office of Cannabis Management, a new state agency created by the legislation. The new agency will also regulate medical marijuana and cannabis products derived from hemp.
The law also gives local governments some control over cannabis businesses that locate within their jurisdictions, including limiting the number of cannabis retailers that can set up shop within a town’s city limits to one retailer per every 12,500 residents, with a minimum of one dispensary. But outright bans on dispensaries are not allowed.
State lawmakers included provisions barring local governments from banning cannabis businesses after local control laws in other states led to so-called cannabis deserts, where consumers had little or no access to legal cannabis. Jason Tarasek, an attorney at the cannabis law practice Vicente LLP who manages the firm’s Minnesota office, said that he is “grateful that the Minnesota state legislators paid careful attention to the failed policies in those states that allowed local governments to prevent cannabis businesses from operating in their jurisdictions.”
“By precluding local governments from opting out, yet giving municipalities power to regulate the time, place and manner of the operations of cannabis businesses, Minnesota is much more likely to put the illicit market out of business in every corner of the state,” he added.
Cities Passing Temporary Bans on Retail Sales
State agencies have set a target date of May 2024 to begin accepting applications for adult-use cannabis retailers, according to a report from Minnesota Public Radio News, with dispensary sales of recreational marijuana anticipated to start in January 2025. But with the legalization of possession only days away, many cities are taking steps to temporarily ban retail sales of cannabis until state regulations take effect.
In Rochester, Minnesota, city leaders are considering a prohibition on retail cannabis sales until January 2025. If the ban is approved, the city would join at least 10 others that have passed similar temporary bans on retail cannabis sales. Rochester city clerk Kelly Geistler says the temporary ban will give the city council time to decide what kind of rules governing cannabis businesses are appropriate for the community.
“We’re really just trying to preserve the space to get our ordinance in order so that we can be in lockstep with the state when they kick off their function, which they don’t have a prescribed date,” Geistler said in a statement to Minnesota Public Radio News. “But they have indicated that that’s likely to be January 2025.”
City officials in Mankato, Minnesota have also recently approved a temporary ban on cannabis retailers, with city manager Susan Arntz noting that local officials will have less influence over cannabis rules compared with other regulated products.
“It’s a completely different process,” Arntz said. “In this case, the city is less involved in the licensing, whereas with alcohol and tobacco, we are more involved.”
But she added that cities will be responsible for enforcing licenses once they have been issued by state regulators.
“Until the rules are published, you know, there’s a lot of unknowns,” she said.