State lawmakers in Minnesota introduced a bill this week that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults and establish a legal marijuana industry in the state. The bill, HF 4632, was introduced by House of Representatives Majority Leader Ryan Winkler on Tuesday with the support of 33 cosponsors.
Winkler, a Democrat, said in February that he and his colleagues in the House were working on what he said would be “the best legalization bill in the country to date.” He added that the lawmakers working on the bill would learn from the mistakes of the 11 other states that have already legalized marijuana.
Soon after, however, attention shifted from pending legislative priorities to dealing with the novel coronavirus pandemic that has swept the globe. But with restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the virus now beginning to be relaxed, Winkler believes it’s time to renew the push to legalize cannabis.
“We made a commitment to introduce legislation this session, and we wanted to follow through on that commitment,” he said in a statement. “Our current priority is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, but after the town halls and discussions around this issue, we still wanted to put a strong bill forward. As we look to come out of this crisis as a better, stronger Minnesota, we need to continue working toward legalizing cannabis for responsible adult use.”
If passed, Winkler’s bill would legalize the use and possession of cannabis by adults. Up to 1.5 ounces of pot could be legally carried on one’s person and up to ten pounds of marijuana could be kept at home. Growing up to eight cannabis plants, four of which may be flowering, would also be legalized.
The bill also provides a regulatory framework for a commercial cannabis industry to be established in Minnesota. Labeling, packaging, and testing requirements would be implemented for cannabis products and dosage sizes would be restricted, among other regulations.
Social Equity Measures Written Into Bill
Several social equity provisions are also written into the bill, including the establishment of an Office of Social Equity that would distribute grants to promote economic opportunity and community stability. The measure also prioritizes social equity applicants for business licenses in the new cannabis industry. HF 4632 provides for the expungement of most cannabis convictions, as well.
The bill was crafted after months of public discussions and research that included an analysis of the successes and challenges of cannabis legalization in other states. Unlike other states, the legislation does not include provisions that allow local jurisdictions to ban cannabis businesses, a power that has been used to thwart the growth of the legal cannabis industry in California.
“Minnesotans have been loud and clear that our current cannabis laws are doing more harm than good,” Winkler said. “By creating a regulatory framework, we can address the harms caused by cannabis and establish a more sensible set of laws to improve our health care and criminal justice systems and ensure better outcomes for communities.”
Last year, a bipartisan bill to legalize cannabis was introduced in Minnesota but failed to survive a vote by a state Senate committee. When Winkler first announced the new bill’s imminent introduction in February, he acknowledged it would be a long road to legalization subject to amendments and compromise and it is “highly likely that it will take more than one year to get it done.”