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Recreational marijuana is expected to become legal in Minnesota in about two months after lawmakers approved a bill that allows personal cultivation of the plant and consumption of marijuana flower and edibles.
The DFL-controlled Senate passed the bill about 1:30 a.m. Saturday on a 34-32 vote along party lines. The House passed the bill Thursday night on a 73-57 vote.
The bill was met with both praise and caution by advocates who pushed for equity measures in the legislation.
“Most of the things that need to be fixed were just oversights, and we ran out of time,” said Angela Dawson, a central Minnesota hemp farmer and president and CEO of 40 Acre Co-op.
The bill now goes to Governor Tim Walz’s desk to be signed into law. Walz has said he will sign the bill, which would make recreational marijuana legal in the state starting August 1 of this year. Medical marijuana was legalized in 2014.
Minnesota would become the 23rd state to legalize recreational marijuana.
“I’m filled with joyful, exhausted gratitude,” tweeted Senator Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville, who sponsored the bill in the Senate.
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.
Advocates, including Dawson, celebrated the occasion while noting that some issues in the bill could be fine-tuned in the future.
“I’m really excited that they passed it,” Dawson said.
Dawson said she likes provisions that keep marijuana untaxed for patients in the state’s medical marijuana program, the grant programs for social equity applicants who want to start marijuana businesses, and the automatic expungement of low-level marijuana convictions.
“I think that’s going to allow me to help more people get their records clean and get their lives together,” Dawson said.
All of those things make it one of the most equitable marijuana bills in the country, she said.
Marcus Harcus, a lobbyist for local hemp and CBD company Uniflora Holistics, said he’s “made peace with the fact that it’s an imperfect and flawed bill.”
“I think the bill does a lot more good than harm,” Harcus said. “Politics is the art of compromise. Not everybody got everything they wanted. But we did get a lot of what we wanted.”
Harcus agreed with Dawson’s points, and said he also appreciates a tiered system that allows smaller businesses to participate in the marijuana market by charging them lower licensing fees.
Harcus and Dawson are wary that the bill allows two existing medical marijuana providers to cultivate up to 90,000 square feet of plants to sell marijuana in the medical and recreational markets. The businesses are New York-based Vireo Health and Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries, which both operate in multiple states.
That’s far more square footage than what is allowed in the next tier of licensing below the two providers. The second tier allows businesses to grow up to 15,000 square feet of plants to sell marijuana in the medical and recreational markets.
Legislators came to an agreement about the square footage privately and voted on it publicly during the second conference committee meeting, which was a series of three meetings where members of the House and Senate reconciled the differences between their two marijuana bills to create a single bill.
“This was something I wish I could have had input on, not necessarily to stop it,” Dawson said. “But I feel like any benefits that we give to MSO’s [multi-state operators] should always have a parallel social equity provision with it.”
Harcus said that while Vireo Health and Green Thumb Industries will be allowed growing space than other companies, the law still opens a path for smaller businesses to succeed.
“They have to sell two-thirds of their canopy to medical patients before they can participate in the adult-use market,” he said of Vireo Health and Green Thumb Industries. “That’s a little bit better than the door just being wide open for them.”
A new state Office of Cannabis Management, which will include a division of social equity, will govern how the recreational marijuana market operates. The office, Dawson said, will have the opportunity to enact regulations and rules to improve equity.
The Legislature could also tweak the program during next year’s legislative session, when state lawmakers won’t be tasked with issues like passing a state budget for the biennium.
Harcus said the final bill was “still prohibition-lite,” pointing out that people who possess more than two pounds of marijuana could still be charged with a felony.
Those issues can be worked on during future legislative sessions, he said. Harcus anticipates that concerns like the potential conflict between how much marijuana people can legally possess and how many plants they can legally grow shouldn’t lead to too many legal difficulties.
Some advocates have raised concerns that people could run into trouble because the law allows Minnestoans to grow eight plants, which advocates say would produce far more marijuana than the two pounds allowed under the law.
“I don’t think most people will have to worry about people coming into their home to count their plants,” Harcus said.
Ultimately, he’s optimistic about the future.
“I do think Minnesota is going to have one of the best cannabis programs in the country,” he said.