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Gov. Walz signs Minnesota's legal cannabis bill into law

Minnesota becomes the 23rd state to legalize cannabis for adult recreational use starting Aug. 1, while expunging offenses from thousands of Minnesotans' records.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed a landmark bill Tuesday that makes Minnesota the 23rd state in the U.S. to legalize cannabis for adult recreational use starting later this summer; and at the same time, expunge low-level cannabis offenses from the records of tens of thousands of Minnesotans.

"This has been a long journey," Walz said ahead of the signing. "What we know right now is prohibition does not work. We've criminalized a lot of folks, we're going to start the expungement process on those records. We have a situation where buying cannabis on the streets is dangerous with ... fentanyl, xylazine, other things we're starting to see show up."

Walz said the new law does not advocate drug use, but puts regulations and processes in place to ensure safety for those adults who choose to use cannabis. The governor also noted that legalization opens new economic opportunities in the state, from growing cannabis to processing and sales.

Joining Walz at the signing event were the bill's legislative authors, as well as former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who's long advocated for legalization.

"Prohibition will now end, it's (been) going on longer than I've been alive, the prohibition of a plant made by God," Ventura said. "It's very wonderful to see a dream of yours over 20 years ago finally happy today and I'm still alive to see it."

The final version of the legislature's Legal Adult-Use Cannabis bill passed the Senate by a vote of 34-32 just after 1 a.m. on May 20, the day after the DFL-controlled House passed the measure in another late-night session, 73-57. Five House Republicans voted with Democrats to approve the bill, and one Democrat voted against it, while state Senators gave it the go-ahead on a straight party-line vote.

“The prohibition on cannabis has had tremendously negative impacts on the lives of Minnesotans, especially our communities of color, and it is time for us to change course, create a system that works for adult-use cannabis, and create a regulated market for Minnesota,” said Senator Lindsey Port (DFL-Burnsville), chief author of the legislation, after the bill passed both legislative chambers.

But not everyone involved in the debate was celebrating the bill's passage. During the process, Republican lawmakers expressed their concerns over the potential impacts legal cannabis might have on traffic safety and crime, addiction and other mental health issues.  

“We’re opening a door that is going to be very difficult to close, and it’s going to be very difficult to put the genie back on the bottle once this occurs,” said Republican Sen. Warren Limmer, of Maple Grove, the lead Republican on the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

The final version of the bill, which went through several rounds of debate and revision, allows adults ages 21 and older to possess and/or transport up to 2 ounces of cannabis flower; 8 grams of concentrate and 800 milligrams of edible products. 

The legislation also says adults can possess up to two pounds of cannabis flower in their private homes.

Additionally, a new Office of Cannabis Management will be created to help regulate Minnesota's cannabis industry, issuing licenses and developing regulations for businesses that are interested in participating. 

With Walz's signature, the majority of the legislation will become active on Aug. 1 — e.g., the end of cannabis prohibition and automatic expungement. But some portions of the bill, like the establishment of the Office of Cannabis Management, a Cannabis Advisory Board, and an Expungement Board, among other moves — will take effect on July 1.

Retail sales in Minnesota are projected to begin in the summer of 2024, with a 10% tax —  on top of existing sales taxes — on cannabis products.

When cannabis does hit shelves next year, local governments will be tasked with controlling the location of businesses allowed to carry the product. The state says this way, local officials will be able to more easily prevent retailers from opening near schools or parks.

Last week, the city of Mankato voted to put a moratorium on cannabis sales, which could stay in effect until Jan. 1, 2025. The city council said it wants to have more time to study the issue and craft local regulations specific to Mankato. However, the new law will not allow cities to permanently ban cannabis.  

While Minnesotans will have to wait a few more months before they're able to use legal marijuana recreationally, the state says its Medical Cannabis Program will continue, with plans to move its offices from the Minnesota Department of Health to the Office of Cannabis Management beginning March 1, 2025.

The sale of low-potency hemp edibles will also continue.


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