Recreational marijuana will become legal in Minnesota on August 1 after Governor Tim Walz signed a bill Tuesday legalizing cannabis.
Minnesota is the 23rd state to legalize recreational marijuana.
“This has been a long journey,” Walz said shortly before signing the bill into law. “What we know right now is prohibition doesn’t work. We’ve criminalized a lot of folks.”
A jubilant crowd of supporters flanked Walz and cheered in support when he signed the bill into law Tuesday afternoon at the State Capitol. Former Governor Jesse Ventura, who publicly lobbied for legalization, and bill authors Representative Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids; and Senator Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville; were on hand for the signing, along with several marijuana activists.
Walz said his administration has been working on legalization since he took office in 2019, starting with studying legal marijuana markets in Vermont and Colorado. He called the resulting Minnesota legislation “an exercise in democracy,” pointing to the more than 30 public hearings the bill saw during this year’s legislative session and the input it received from advocates during the process.
“I assure Minnesotans, a lot of thought has gone into this,” Walz said. “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.”
Throughout the bill’s legislative process, Stephenson and Port championed the measure as one of the most equitable in the nation.
“Prohibition does not work,” Port said at the ceremony. “If we could have solved any of the problems people have with cannabis through prohibition, we would have done it in the last 50 years.”
Port called the new law “community focused” and pledged that it will “look at reinvesting in communities that have been harmed” by marijuana prohibition.
“Front and center in this legislation is the expungement piece to make sure that we are undoing some of the harm that we have done as a state through prohibition,” she said.
These provisions include automatic expungement of all prior marijuana possession misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors in the state. The bill also creates an panel to consider the expungement of prior gross misdemeanors and felonies related to marijuana possession and sales.
Marcus Harcus, a lobbyist for local hemp and CBD company Uniflora Holistics, said the expungements are the most important part of the new law. Harcus was at the Capitol to witness the historic signing.
“I heard throughout the session that the main point of this bill is to end the illicit market, but I disagree with that,” Harcus said in an interview. “The main point is to stop criminalizing people.”
Walz said the expungement process is set to begin this summer, but will take time.
“We’ve got 50 years of folks that we’ve been arresting and getting records on,” Walz said Tuesday. “It’s not going to unwind immediately, but we feel a sense of urgency around that.”
A Cannabis Expungement Board will be established this summer and begin the work of reviewing all marijuana convictions in the state. In an interview, Stephenson said that people with marijuana convictions in Minnesota will not have to apply for expungement. Instead, the expungement board will review all convictions. The process will be lengthy, because the state has an estimated 60,000 marijuana misdemeanors, Stephenson said, adding that the number does not include marijuana felonies.
The new law also attempts to give people from marginalized communities a leg up in entering the legal marijuana market.
Under the new law, aspiring marijuana entrepreneurs who meet the definition of “social equity applicant” can access business licenses easier, as well as start-up grants from the state. Social equity applicants include people who live in low-income communities, people who’ve been previously convicted of a marijuana possession or sales offense, and veterans who were discharged over a marijuana offense, among others.
Authors of the law said it will take 12 to 18 months before dispensaries are open selling marijuana.
Key measures of Minnesota’s recreational marijuana bill:
- Marijuana possession limits will be limited to two ounces per person in public and two pounds in private per household.
- For marijuana-infused edibles, people will be limited to possessing 800 milligrams of THC edibles. Currently, THC-infused hemp-derived edibles in Minnesota are limited to 5 milligrams per product and 50 milligrams per package.
- People can possess up to 8 grams of marijuana concentrate.
- People will be allowed to grow marijuana in their homes. They can have up to eight plants per household. Four of those plants can be mature at a time.
- Smoking and ingesting marijuana and THC-infused hemp products will be allowed in private homes, on private property, and on sites open to the public that are licensed to allow marijuana consumption. Such sites could include restaurants that apply for a special permit or marijuana dispensaries with seating.
- Individuals must be 21 or older to buy or consume marijuana products.
- Smoking or consuming marijuana or hemp-derived THC products will be banned in multifamily housing. Violations can result in a $250 fine.
- Driving under the influence of any amount of marijuana or THC-infused hemp products will be illegal. The penalty will be identical to a drunk driving offense.