Adults 21 and older in Minnesota can now possess and grow marijuana for personal use under a legalization law that was passed by lawmakers earlier this year and took effect on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the process of automatically expunging prior cannabis records is also being implemented by state officials.
While traditional recreational cannabis retailers are not expected to open until at least next year, other key components of the legalization law that Gov. Tim Walz (D) enacted in May have now gone into effect. Meanwhile, two Indian tribes have been preparing to get a head start on adult-use cannabis sales, with plans to open up shops as early as Tuesday.
Possession of up to two ounces of marijuana—and cultivation of up to eight plants, four of which may be mature at a time—is now legal. In a household, adults can possess a maximum of two pounds of cannabis.
Additionally, gifting up to two ounces of marijuana between adults without remuneration is now a legal activity.
Minnesota just took a big leap towards rectifying injustices committed under the racist policies of the War on Drugs. https://t.co/e8bkNF8pjl
— Senator Tina Smith (@SenTinaSmith) August 1, 2023
The law also formally created the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), which launched last month. It will be the primary regulatory body that will oversee the market and for which the governor is actively seeking an executive director.
Another body that has been instituted is the Cannabis Expungement Board, which will facilitate record sealing for people with eligible marijuana convictions on their records. The review process for eligible cases will commence on Tuesday.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) also said in an update published in June that approximately 66,000 cannabis records are expected to be automatically sealed under the legalization law. Another 230,000 are set to be reviewed by the Expungement Review Board at the state Department of Corrections.
While legalization goes into effect on Tuesday, it will take longer for the state’s first adult-use retailers to open.
However, the state has shown that it’s eager to expeditiously stand up the industry, and the governor said last month that Indian tribes in the state may be able to start selling to adult consumers sooner than standard licensees. Following that announcement, two tribes have so far indicated that they may be ready to launch sales this week.
Even before Walz signed the reform bill, the state launched a website that serves as a hub for information about the new law. Officials have also already started soliciting vendors to help build a licensing system for recreational marijuana businesses.
For those adults interested in consuming cannabis now that it’s legal, it should be noted that the law makes it illegal to smoke or vape marijuana in a multifamily housing building such as an apartment, even if it’s outdoors on a balcony or patio. The penalty for violating the law is a $250 fine.
There has also been some confusion around the policy for underage marijuana possession. While it was the bill sponsors’ intent to remove criminal penalties for the activity, it recently came to light that people under 21 who are caught possessing cannabis could face a default petty misdemeanor under statute that was not revised by the legalization law. Still, GOP lawmakers have requested a special session to codify criminalization for underage possession and to address what they say are other “glaring issues” in the law.
Here are the main components of the final marijuana legalization law:
As of Tuesday, adults 21 and older will be able to possess in public up to two ounces of cannabis and they will be allowed to cultivate up to eight plants at home, four of which can be mature. People can possess up to two pounds of marijuana in their residences.
Gifting up to two ounces of marijuana without remuneration between adults will be permitted.
It’s expected to take 12-18 months for licenses to be issued and regulated sales to start. As of March 1, 2025, existing medical cannabis businesses can receive new combination licenses that would allow them to participate in the adult-use market.
Certain marijuana misdemeanor records will also be automatically expunged, with implementation beginning on Tuesday. BCA will be responsible for identifying people who are eligible for relief to the courts, which will process the expungements. The Cannabis Expungement Board will also consider felony cannabis offenses for relief, including potential sentence reductions for those still incarcerated.
In addition to creating a system of licensed cannabis businesses, municipalities and counties can own and operate government dispensaries.
On-site consumption permits can be approved for events, and cannabis delivery services will be permitted under the bill.
Local governments will not be allowed to prohibit marijuana businesses from operating in their areas, though they can set “reasonable” regulations on the time of operation and location while also limiting the number of cannabis business licenses based on population size.
There will be a gross receipts tax on cannabis sales in the amount of 10 percent, which will be applied in addition to the state’s standard 6.875 percent sales tax.
Eighty percent of revenue will go into the state’s general fund—with some monies earmarked for grants to help cannabis businesses, fund substance misuse treatment efforts and other programs—and 20 percent will go to local governments.
OCM was established at the beginning of last month, and it will be responsible for regulating the market and issuing cannabis business licenses. There will be a designated Division of Social Equity.
The legislation will promote social equity, in part by ensuring diverse licensing by scoring equity applicants higher. People living in low-income neighborhoods and military veterans who lost honorable status due to a cannabis-related offense will be considered social equity applicants eligible for priority licensing. People convicted of cannabis offenses, or who have an immediate family member with such a conviction, will also qualify.
A separate Minnesota law also took effect on Tuesday that legalizes drug paraphernalia possession, syringe services, controlled substances residue and testing.
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Democratic-Farmer-Labor legislators are pointing to the achievement on cannabis reform as a direct result of voters putting the party in the majority in both chambers after last year’s election.
The legislation that advanced through both chambers is an iteration of the 2021 House-passed bill from former Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D), who this year served as campaign chairman of the advocacy coalition MN is Ready.
A poll released in May found that 64 percent of Minnesota registered voters support creating a regulated marijuana market, including 81 percent of Democrats and a 49 percent plurality of Republicans.
BREAKING: As of this morning, it is legal for adults to possess cannabis in Minnesota!
— Minnesota DFL Party (@MinnesotaDFL) August 1, 2023
Two polls released in September found that the majority of Minnesota residents support adult-use marijuana legalization—and one survey showed that even more Minnesotans approve of the state’s move to legalize THC-infused edibles that was enacted last year.
A survey conducted by officials with the House at the annual State Fair that was released in September also found majority support for legalization. That legislature-run poll found that 61 percent of Minnesotans back legalizing cannabis for adult use.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.