The governor of Minnesota has signed a bill to legalize marijuana, making it the 23rd state in the U.S. to end cannabis prohibition.
After months of committee hearings and floor votes, Gov. Tim Walz (D) signed off on HF 100 on Tuesday, as he previously committed to doing.
“This has been a long journey with a lot of folks involved,” Walz said. “What we know right now is prohibition does not work. We’ve criminalized a lot of folks who are going to start the expungement process on those records.”
“It’s going to take us a bit of time to get this up and going. We’ll be getting some people into the positions to be able to run this,” he said. “But I assure Minnesotans that a lot of thought has gone into this. A lot of the things learned in other states are incorporated into how we do this, and the thoughtfulness around this legislation gives us a really good guiding principle.”
Minnesota just became the 23rd state in the nation to legalize adult-use cannabis.
— Governor Tim Walz (@GovTimWalz) May 30, 2023
Now, with the governor’s signature, marijuana possession and home cultivation will become legal in the state on August 1—with regulators expected to take 12-18 months to get a licensed commercial sales system launched.
Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, a longstanding champion of cannabis reform who delivered impassioned testimony at legislative hearings this session about illegally obtaining medical marijuana to treat his wife’s severe epilepsy, attended Tuesday’s bill signing.
“This was a huge day in our family’s life because prohibition will now end. It’s gone on longer than I’ve been alive, the prohibition of a plant made by god,” he said. “We were always told everything was here for us to use. Now in Minnesota we will be able to use this plant after years of prohibition.”
So excited to be joining @GovTimWalz today to finally legalize recreational cannabis in Minnesota. Thank you to the Gov. and his staff for allowing me to witness first hand this historic moment in MN history.
— Jesse Ventura (@GovJVentura) May 30, 2023
“We didn’t want any families to go through what the first lady and I went through,” he said. “Now, today, they will never have to because prohibition will end today on cannabis.”
“I am delighted to be here with you as we put the period at the end of the sentence on this piece of legislation,” Sen. Lindsey Port (D), the bill’s Senate author, said. “I am really proud that Minnesota is taking a step forward and trying something new.”
“We’re trying it in a way that is unique to Minnesota—that really delves into the realities of Minnesota, that looks at entrepreneurial spirit, that looks at reinvesting in communities that have been harmed and, most importantly, that puts front and center in this legislation the expungement piece to make sure that we are undoing some of the harm that we have done as a state through the prohibition of cannabis,” she said.
Rep. Zack Stephenson (D), the House sponsor, said that “while Minnesota might be the 23rd state to legalize cannabis, I think we’ve passed the best bill in the country that Minnesotans can be really proud of.”
“We’ve built a model that will work for Minnesota specifically, and I think Minnesotans will be really pleased with the results of that work,” he said.
The bill signing comes just over a week after the House and Senate passed the bill, which had been recently finalized by a bicameral conference committee.
Both the House and Senate previously passed differing versions of legalization bills from Stephenson and Port, but they needed the conference committee to resolve differences between their respective measures before they could be reapproved.
Lawmakers worked quickly to get the job done, as the legislative session ends on Monday. And the governor followed suit with a prompt signing.
Even before the signing, the state began building the infrastructure for the new adult-use market—first by launching a website for the cannabis regulatory agency that will oversee the program but which won’t technically be established until July, and then by releasing a notice soliciting vendors that can facilitate licensing.
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 now serves as campaign chairman of the advocacy coalition MN is Ready.
Walz has called on supporters to join lawmakers and the administration in their push legalize marijuana this session, and he circulated an email blast in January that encourages people to sign a petition backing the reform.
As of August 1, 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 in August. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will be responsible for identifying people who are eligible for relief to the courts, which will process the expungements. A newly created 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.
A new Office of Cannabis Management will be established, 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.
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The House bill was vetted by numerous committees before reaching the floor. It passed the Ways and Means Committee, Taxes Committee, Transportation Finance and Policy Committee, Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee, Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee, Health Finance and Policy Committee, Education Finance Committee, Human Services Policy Committee, Workforce Development Finance and Policy Committee, Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee, State and Local Government Finance and Policy Committee, Labor and Industry Finance and Policy Committee, Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee, Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee and Commerce Finance and Policy Committee (twice).
The Senate committees that signed off on the bill are the Finance Committee, Taxes Committee, Rules and Administration Committee, State and Local Government and Veterans Committee, Labor Committee, Human Services Committee, Health and Human Services Committee, Transportation Committee, Environment, Climate, and Legacy Committee, Agriculture, Broadband, and Rural Development Committee, Jobs and Economic Development Committee, Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee and Judiciary and Public Safety Committee (twice).
Following their election win in November, Democrats internally agreed to discuss the issue imminently.
A poll released last week 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.
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.
Meanwhile in Minnesota, the House separately passed an omnibus health bill last month that contains provisions to create a psychedelics task force meant to prepare the state for possible legalization.
And on Friday, the governor signed large-scale legislation that contains provisions to legalize drug paraphernalia possession, syringe services, residue and testing—a win for harm reduction advocates in the state.