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Minnesota House votes to legalize recreational marijuana; bill now goes to Senate

The DFL-controlled House passed the bill 73-57 late Thursday night, sending it to the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim one-seat majority.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota is one step closer to legalizing recreational marijuana for adults.

The DFL-controlled House voted 73-57 in favor of legalizing adult-use cannabis late Thursday night, sending the bill to the Senate where Democrats hold a slim one-seat majority. During Thursday's vote five Republicans joined 68 Democrats in support, while one Democrat joined 56 Republicans in opposition.

Should the bill be approved by the Senate, which is expected to take up the bill on Friday, it would then go to Gov. Tim Walz, who has said he plans to sign it. If legalized, Minnesota would be the 23rd state in the U.S. to legalize adult-use cannabis.

Should the bill become law. Minnesotans 21 years and older will be able to buy up to two ounces of marijuana, eight grams of concentrate or up to 800 milligrams of edible products at a time starting July 1. It would also allow Minnesotans to legally grow a limited number of plants starting Aug. 1. 

Negotiators ironed out the final details of the bill earlier this week, including a 10% tax on cannabis products on top of existing sales taxes, and possession limits for cannabis flower of two pounds at home and two ounces in public.

Retail sales wouldn't start until 2024 with local governments controlling the location of the stores. This would allow local lawmakers the ability to prevent retailers from opening near schools or parks.

Minnesotans who've been convicted of misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor possession would also get their records automatically expunged, according to the bill. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) estimates it will take until August of next year to process all the automatic expungements. Those convicted of sales or other more serious - but nonviolent - marijuana offenses that will no longer be crimes, or will become lesser offenses will be able to apply to a special board to get their records cleared or sentences reduced.

"We have done our very best to make this an even-handed bill, and the reason I believe that is because I don't necessarily agree with everything that's in there," said Rep. Athena Hollins, D-St. Paul, who voted in favor of the bill. "I think that there are parts of it that are too conservative and that is what gives me comfort that we're actually moving in the right direction and taking the correct path — a middle ground."

Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, spoke out against the bill, saying he believed it could lead to addiction.

"More youth will become addicted to drugs because of this bill. Now just let that sink in for a minute — it's going to happen," said Rep. Baker, who was one of 56 Republicans to vote against the bill. "They won't likely die from cannibis, but they will become addicted through cannabis."

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