More states are legalizing cannabis and Minnesota has now joined the ranks. The final Minnesota marijuana legalization bill has been approved by the House. It will be sent to the Senate for another vote before arriving on the Governor’s desk.
Read on to find out more about the bill and what it means for the state.
What is the Progress of the Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill?
The Minnesota marijuana legalization bill passed in chamber on May 18 in a 73-57 vote. The approval came just two days after House Sponsor Rep. Zack Stephenson signed off on a 320-page conference report which set out its guidelines.
“Well, the day has finally arrived. Today is the day that we are going to vote here in the House for the last time to legalize cannabis and bring the change that many Minnesotans have wanted for a very long time,” said Stevenson.
“This is a good bill. It’s been a long process to get here,” he said.
He followed up tweeting, “Feels like a good day to wear a green tie to work.”
The Senate has promised to vote on the measure immediately as the current session ended on Monday. It will then be passed on to the Governor who has pledged to sign it into law.
Who Supported the Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill?
The Minnesota marijuana legalization bill was supported by both Republicans and Democrats.
Republican representative Nolan West, who is also a member of the conference committee, stated, “Opening up to a legal market will allow these things to be tested and approved.”
“Everything that will be sold when this bill is legal will have to be approved and tested so people know what’s in it. It’s more dangerous today without this, just like when people were dying from alcohol with alcohol prohibition. It’s more dangerous to prohibit it,” he went on to say.
Rep. Pat Garofalo (R) originally opposed the bill but has since changed his mind and decided to back it.
“The bill was substantially improved in conference committee,” he said. “While it isn’t perfect, it’s better than our current marijuana prohibition laws.”
The House and Senate Minnesota marijuana legalization bills were both amended during an extended committee process and unified before receiving their final votes.
The passing of the bill is thought to be the result of putting Democratic-Farmer Labor lawmakers in the majority in both chambers after last year’s elections.
“Our current cannabis laws aren’t working for Minnesota,” said Democratic speaker Melissa Hortman in a press release. “Criminalizing a product many people think should be available continues a legacy of racial injustice no longer defensible. This sensible legalization addresses racial inequalities in our criminal justice system and mitigates risks posed by legalizing the adult use of cannabis. It is time to end prohibition and move forward with legalization.”
The bill is an iteration of an older House-passed bill introduced by former Democratic Majority Leader Ryan Winkler who now serves as the campaign chairman of the MN is Ready advocacy coalition.
The state’s Democratic governor Tim Walz has called on supporters, lawmakers, and administration members to push the Minnesota marijuana legalization bill through. He sent out an email blast in January encouraging people to sign a petition that backs the bill.
What Does the Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Mean?
The Minnesota marijuana legalization bill brings the following changes starting August 1:
- People 21 and over can purchase and possess up to two ounces of cannabis. They will be able to cultivate up to eight marijuana plants four of which can be mature. They may also keep up to 2 ounces of weed in their homes and gift up to 2 ounces of weed to others.
- Certain marijuana misdemeanors will be expunged from criminal records. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will identify which individuals are eligible for expungements. The newly created Cannabis Expungement Board will consider reducing sentences in felony cases for incarcerated felons.
- Selling licenses will be issued within 12-18 months. In March 2025, existing medical cannabis businesses will be receiving licenses allowing them to participate in the recreational market. Municipalities and counties will be able to open and operate government dispensaries.
- Permits may be issued for on-site consumption for certain events. Cannabis delivery will be permitted.
- Local governments will not be permitted to prohibit dispensaries from operating in their areas. However, they can set limitations regarding the time of operation, location, and the number of licenses that can be approved in their area.
- A 10% gross receipts sales tax will be charged for marijuana sales on top of the state’s standard 6.875% sales tax. 80% of taxes will go into the state’s government fund with some going towards grants to help cannabis businesses and substance abuse programs. The other 20% will fund local governments.
- A new Office of Cannabis Management will be established to regulate the market and issue licenses. It will be a designated Division of Social Equity.
- The Minnesota marijuana legislation bill will support social equity by prioritizing applications for people in low-income neighborhoods, veterans who lost honorable status due to marijuana-related offenses, and people, or family members of people, who have been convicted of cannabis-related offenses.
The People’s Take on the Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill
The Minnesota marijuana legalization bill was supported by many Minnesotans. A recent poll showed 64% of voters support creating a regulated marijuana market with an 81% Democrat, 49% Republican split.
Two polls from September 2022 show that most Minnesota residents support marijuana legalization. One of the surveys found that even more of the population support the state’s move to legalize THC-infused edibles which was enacted last year.
A survey conducted by House officials at the annual state fair released last September showed majority support for the legislation. It found that 61% of participants backed a bill for legalizing adult cannabis use. The fair poll showed support was up from 58% in 2021 and 56% in 2019.