Gov. Tim Walz is expected to sign a 300-page bill in the coming days as Minnesota goes legal for recreational cannabis use. The Minnesota Legislature approved the bill Saturday in an early morning vote by the Senate. The bill will allow adults 21 and older to use recreational marijuana and transform a black market into regulated, state-licensed businesses throughout the state.
Possession for adults 21 and older will be lawful starting Aug. 1 with limits. It will no longer be a crime for Minnesotans to have up to two pounds of marijuana at their home and transport two ounces while in public. It would still be illegal to sell it without a state license, and you could face criminal penalties and civil fines for doing so or if you possess more than the amount the legislation authorizes.
You are authorized to have cannabis in your car if it's unopened in the package it came in. But don't take a THC edible or smoke a joint and get behind the wheel. Or if you're a passenger. A person is not allowed to drive under the influence of marijuana or lower dose hemp-derived THC edibles. It's considered a DWI, like alcohol, with the same penalties.
The bill provides funding for drug recognition training for law enforcement and establishes a pilot project to study oral fluid roadside tests that determine if someone is high. Right now, there is no such reliable test that's similar to a breathalyzer for alcohol.
Smoking marijuana is prohibited in public places
or on the balconies or patios of apartment and condo buildings. There are some exceptions for people who are part of the medical program. It also prohibits cannabis use at in public schools and correctional facilities. The legislation says you can only use marijuana for recreational purposes at your private residence, private property of someone else with their permission, and businesses or events licensed for on-site consumption. Local governments can adopt ordinances making it a petty misdemeanor for someone who breaks those rules.
The bill also allows the growing up to eight flowering plants—with no more than four being
mature—at a single residence without a state license.
The bill creates a new regulatory framework to license businesses that would cultivate, manufacture, and sell marijuana at retail dispensaries. A new state Office of Cannabis Management is tasked with oversight, but it will take time to get it up and running.
Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, who is a co-author of the bill, told WCCO he anticipates it will be 12 to 18 months before someone can go into a store and purchase new, regulated marijuana products.
There will be a 10% gross receipts tax on cannabis products—whether they are hemp edibles or marijuana. That's on top of general local and state sales taxes. Still, the total tax rate is set to be lower than other states where cannabis is legal, according to an analysis from the Tax Foundation. Revenues will be shared between the state (80%) and local governments (20%).
Last summer, the state legislature authorized the sale of low-dose hemp-derived edibles and drinks with THC—the same compound that can produce a high in marijuana—so long as there aren't more than 5 milligrams per serving and 50 milligrams per package. There are temporary regulations under this bill so existing businesses can operate while the Office of Cannabis Management gets up and running. The Department of Health is tasked with oversight until 2025, then the new state cannabis office will oversee hemp-derived products, too. At the time the bill passed last summer, there were no licenses or an additional tax on these products. That changes with this new legislation. They will face a 10% gross receipts tax and will face additional regulations. Hemp and marijuana are like cousins, but what makes them different is marijuana has more THC in it. In 2018, Congress passed a bill legalizing hemp by removing it from a Schedule I drug classification if it had no more than .3% of THC on a dry weight basis. That means that hemp-only businesses may face fewer hurdles to being profitable. Because of marijuana's federal status, an employer cannot deduct most business-related expenses from federal taxes. The legislation allows for THC-infused hemp edibles and drinks to be sold at liquor stores.
There are 12 different business licenses a person can apply for in the adult-use market, and there are additional licenses for medical cannabis. To be eligible to operate a business, you need to be at least 21 years old and fill out all necessary paperwork and pay license fees. It's not cheap – a cultivator license, for example, will cost $10,000 to apply, $20,000 for the initial license, and $30,000 to renew. Costs vary depending on the operation. Smaller businesses seeking a cannabis "microbusiness" license would pay less.
There are some limits on who is allowed: You can't be a police officer or work for the state office regulating the industry, among other rules. State officials will "score" applications and consider several factors when reviewing them, including proposed business plans, security details, experience working in related industries and more.
Bill authors say a key goal of the legislation is righting the wrongs of prohibition that have disproportionately impacted certain communities. Minnesota ranks 8th in the country for largest racial disparities when it comes to marijuana arrests, according to a ACLU report.
People convicted of cannabis possession or are residents of neighborhoods with high poverty levels are among those considered "social equity applicants," whose status will boost their score. There are also grants for communities most impacted by previous laws.
"The war on drugs has had devastating harmful effects on our communities," said Sen. Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville. "I am incredibly proud that this bill has the 'Can Renew' portion of it that re-invests in communities that have been directly harmed by prohibition. It is a critical part of this bill."
And probably one of the best parts of this new bill; There is automatic expungement of non-felony cannabis offenses, but the bill establishes a board to review more serious crimes involving marijuana. Members of that panel—which will include chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, attorney general, a public defender and more—will consider expungement or resentencing of felony-level convictions. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension on Aug. 1 will start the process of automatically clearing records, according to the bill.