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Minnesota DFL lawmakers unveil plan to legalize adult-use cannabis

After DFL sponsors revealed their plan, Gov. Walz reaffirmed his support, tweeting: "I’m ready to sign it into law."

ST PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota DFL lawmakers have unveiled their latest effort to legalize recreational adult-use cannabis in the state.

"Over the last three years, DFLers in the legislature have listened and worked to build a Minnesota-specific model for cannabis legalization," bill co-author Rep. Zack Stephenson said at a press conference Thursday. "Our bill will create a safe, well-regulated, legal marketplace where Minnesotans can grow, sell and buy cannabis if they choose to do so."

The current language of the proposal (HF 100) would make it legal for anyone over 21 to possess or transport up to two ounces of cannabis flower in public, possess up to five pounds of cannabis flower at home, or eight grams or less of cannabis concentrate, as well as possess or transport cannabinoid products containing up to 800 milligrams of THC. Cannabis-based products would face numerous restrictions to reduce the potential appeal to children.

Under the proposal, cannabis use would be legal in private homes and licensed public establishments. The plan would establish a licensing program for cultivators, transporters, retailers, wholesalers and other roles. Minnesotans would be allowed to cultivate cannabis plants at home, but could only sell cannabis and cannabinoid products with a license.

The bill calls for the creation of an Office of Cannabis Management to regulate cannabis sales and access, with oversight of consumer, health and public safety protections. A new Cannabis Advisory Council would also be created, made up of a group of experts appointed by the governor and representatives from multiple state agencies.

Stephenson said a key element of the bill includes expunging certain cannabis offenses from criminal records, noting those convictions have disproportionately affected people of color.

"Minnesotans deserve the freedom and respect to make responsible decisions about cannabis themselves," Stephenson said. "Our current laws are doing more harm than good. State and local governments are spending millions enforcing laws that aren't helping anyone. Money that could be put to far better purposes."

The bill also establishes a plan for taxing cannabis sales.

A similar bill passed the Minnesota House last year with a bipartisan majority, but stalled in the then-GOP-led Senate. This session, the DFL controls both houses of the legislature.

"While the Senate has not had a conversation on cannabis before, we have been watching the process move through the House. So we have seen the intense engagement from Minnesotans on this issue, we've heard about it in our communities and we are ready to act," bill co-author Sen. Lindsey Port said.

Port said they'll need some time to educate Senate members through hearings and conversations, but she's hopeful committee hearings can begin in the next few weeks and that the bill can pass this session.

Gov. Tim Walz reaffirmed his support for legalizing cannabis in Minnesota with a tweet Wednesday, saying: "It's time to legalize adult-use cannabis and expunge cannabis convictions in Minnesota. I’m ready to sign it into law."

The passage of the bill is far from a certainty, however, with several groups ready to oppose legalization.

"There is no denying there is growing support for marijuana use. But we believe the average person doesn’t understand all the ramifications, and that’s part of our job this session," said John Hausladen, who heads the Minnesota Trucking Association, part of Minnesotans Against Marijuana Legalization, a statewide coalition of groups working to put the brakes on legalization.

The first public hearing on the bill is scheduled for Jan. 11 in the House Commerce Committee.

The full text of the proposed bill can be found here.

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