Minnesota Becomes 23rd State to Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis
The new law is set to take effect on August 1st.
It’s been a long time coming. In 1973, Minnesota jumped into a short-lived cannabis reform wave by decriminalizing one and a half ounces of cannabis. In 2014, the state legalized medical use. And just last year, Minnesota managed to legalize hemp-derived THC edibles throughout the state. Completing its slow, steady pathway to reform, Minnesota became the 23rd state in the United States to legalize adult-use cannabis in late May. It also joins Illinois and Missouri as the third Midwestern state to open its doors to a legal industry, expungements for cannabis prisoners and a new order for cannabis use in the state.
The cannabis legalization bill was passed shortly before Memorial Day with bipartisan support in both Democratic-led chambers of the Minnesota House and Senate. This bill was one of the top priorities for both houses, which worked to get it passed before the end of the state’s legislative session. Governor Walz, during the signing ceremony, stated, "What we know right now is prohibition does not work. We've criminalized a lot of folks... We have a situation where buying cannabis on the streets is dangerous." He posed the use of cannabis as a personal choice for adults to make, one with strong social justice as well as economic repercussions for the state.
He was also joined at the signing ceremony by former Republican Governor Jesse Ventura, a longtime cannabis advocate who testified on behalf of the bill about his wife’s use of cannabis to treat her epileptic seizures. “Jimi Hendrix is looking down on Minnesota smiling,” he said at the signing ceremony. Also speaking at the signing were the bill’s House and Senate sponsors, Lindsey port and Zach Stephenson.
The new law, set to take effect on August 1st, allows Minnesota residents aged 21 years and older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana flower in public and up to two pounds at home, as well as eight grams of concentrate and 800 milligrams of edibles. The legislation also providing those with marijuana convictions a chance to clear their records, specifically higher-level felonies that can be cleared pending the judgment of a forthcoming review board. Lower-level convictions will be automatically expunged.
Minnesota's legislation sets up an Office of Cannabis Management to oversee the regulation and sale of cannabis products in the state. Lower-potency edibles will still exist in the state, and their regulation would fall to the Department of Health, and then finally to the new office. The same goes for the state’s medical cannabis program, which is currently regulated by the Department of Health. The governor estimated the construction and eventual debut of legal cannabis sales in the state could take up to 12-18 months.
Democratic state Rep. Zack Stephenson, the bill's sponsor, said in a news release, "This bill includes best practices for consumer protection, health, and public safety. It also prioritizes a robust expungement program, so people who have been disproportionately impacted by our current cannabis laws can move on with their lives. It is time for legalization, and I’m proud to carry this bill forward".
With 64% of the state’s voters in full support according to a KSTP-TV/Survey USA poll, Minnesota’s program starts off with a great deal of political capital — not to mention a little jealousy thrown at it by at least one neighboring state. “There’s no reason Wisconsin shouldn’t be next when we know Wisconsinites overwhelmingly support legalizing and taxing marijuana, much like we already do with alcohol,” tweeted Walz’s eastern neighbor, Governor Tony Evers. The Democratic Governors Association also applauded the move: “Thanks to Gov. Tim Walz’s leadership, Minnesota just became the 23rd state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana use. NORML’s Paul Armentano chimed in: “The passage of this law is the result of years of grassroots activism by consumers and stakeholders, including Minnesota NORML and one of its founding members – who himself was once a victim of cannabis prohibition. Those destructive policies will soon come to an end, and this summer Minnesota begins to process of righting past wrongs.” As for Walz himself, he tweeted, “Criminalizing cannabis hasn’t worked. By legalizing it for adult use, we’re expanding our economy, creating jobs, and regulating the industry to keep Minnesotans safe. I’m proud to have signed this bill into law.”