In a groundbreaking move, the governor of Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz (D), has signed a bill into law to legalize marijuana, solidifying the state’s commitment to ending cannabis prohibition. Minnesota now joins the ranks of 23 other U.S. states that have embraced the legalization of this versatile plant.
The End of an Era: Minnesota Embraces Cannabis Legalization
After extensive deliberations, committee hearings, and floor votes, Gov. Walz took decisive action by signing HF 100 on Tuesday, delivering on his previous promise to support the legalization efforts. The governor acknowledged the long journey leading to this historic moment, emphasizing the failure of prohibition and the need to rectify past injustices.
Thoughtful Consideration and Guiding Principles
Gov. Walz reassured Minnesotans that the legalization process would be well-thought-out and informed by the experiences of other states. Lessons learned from successful implementations elsewhere have been incorporated into the legislation, ensuring a well-crafted and comprehensive approach to cannabis legalization in Minnesota.
A New Chapter: Possession and Home Cultivation Legalized
With the governor’s signature, the possession and cultivation of marijuana will become legal in Minnesota starting from August 1. However, it is important to note that the establishment of a licensed commercial sales system is expected to take 12-18 months, allowing ample time for the necessary infrastructure to be put in place.
Support from Advocates and Legislators
The bill signing ceremony was attended by prominent figures in the cannabis reform movement. Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, a passionate advocate for cannabis reform, celebrated the end of prohibition that has plagued the state for decades. Gov. Ventura, who testified about illegally obtaining medical marijuana to treat his wife’s epilepsy, expressed his gratitude that other families would no longer have to endure similar hardships.
Sen. Lindsey Port (D), the Senate author of the bill, emphasized the unique approach taken by Minnesota, which focuses on the state’s specific needs and priorities. The legislation seeks to foster entrepreneurial opportunities, reinvest in communities disproportionately affected by prohibition, and prioritize expungement of past cannabis-related offenses.
A Model for Success: Minnesota's Comprehensive Legislation
Rep. Zack Stephenson (D), the House sponsor of the bill, proudly stated that Minnesota’s legislation sets a high standard, surpassing that of other states. The model crafted by Minnesota legislators takes into account the needs and aspirations of its residents, offering a framework that Minnesotans can truly be proud of.
A Swift Resolution: Finalizing the Bill
The bill’s passage through both chambers required a conference committee to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions. Lawmakers worked diligently to ensure the bill’s completion before the end of the legislative session, which occurred on Monday. Gov. Walz’s prompt signing further exemplifies the commitment to expedite the process and deliver on the promises made to the people of Minnesota.
Building the Infrastructure for a Thriving Market
Even before the bill signing, Minnesota began laying the groundwork for a successful adult-use market. The state launched a website for the cannabis regulatory agency, which will oversee the program once officially established in July. Additionally, a notice was issued to solicit vendors capable of facilitating licensing procedures, ensuring a smooth transition into regulated sales.
The Power of Democracy: Voters Influence Cannabis Reform
Democratic-Farmer-Labor legislators credit the success of cannabis reform to the support they received from voters during the previous election. The party’s majority in both chambers provided the necessary momentum to drive this significant legislative achievement.
Key Components of the Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill
HF 100, the final marijuana legalization bill, introduces several crucial provisions:
- Possession and Cultivation: Starting from August 1, adults aged 21 and older can possess up to two ounces of cannabis in public and cultivate up to eight plants at home, with four of them allowed to be mature. Private residences can contain up to two pounds of marijuana.
- Gifting: The bill permits the gifting of up to two ounces of marijuana between adults without remuneration.
- Licensing and Regulation: It is estimated that it will take 12-18 months to issue licenses and establish regulated sales. Existing medical cannabis businesses can obtain new combination licenses from March 1, 2025, allowing them to participate in the adult-use market.
- Expungement of Records: Certain misdemeanor marijuana records will be automatically expunged, beginning in August. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will identify eligible individuals for relief, and the courts will process the expungements. The newly formed Cannabis Expungement Board will consider felony cannabis offenses for potential relief, including sentence reductions for those currently incarcerated.
- Government Dispensaries and Consumption Permits: Municipalities and counties have the option to operate government dispensaries, promoting public access to cannabis. On-site consumption permits can be granted for events, and cannabis delivery services will be allowed.
- Local Regulations: Local governments cannot prohibit marijuana businesses, but they can enact “reasonable” regulations regarding operating hours, locations, and the number of licenses based on population size.
- Taxation and Revenue Allocation: A 10 percent gross receipts tax will be applied to cannabis sales, in addition to the state’s standard 6.875 percent sales tax. Eighty percent of the revenue will contribute to the state’s general fund, supporting programs such as substance misuse treatment. The remaining 20 percent will be allocated to local governments.
- Office of Cannabis Management and Social Equity: A new Office of Cannabis Management will be established to regulate the market and issue licenses. The legislation also emphasizes social equity, with higher scores given to equity applicants during licensing processes. Individuals residing in low-income neighborhoods, military veterans with lost honorable status due to cannabis-related offenses, and those convicted of cannabis offenses or with immediate family members affected by such convictions will qualify for priority licensing.
Embracing the Future: A Landmark Moment for Minnesota
Minnesota’s decision to legalize marijuana marks a pivotal moment in the state’s history. By prioritizing social equity, implementing comprehensive regulations, and learning from the experiences of other states, Minnesota has positioned itself as a leader in responsible cannabis reform. With the official end of prohibition, August 1 will usher in a new era of cannabis acceptance and opportunity for the people of Minnesota.