The Minnesota House of Representatives this week passed a bill to legalize cannabis for adults and establish a regulatory system for recreational marijuana production and sales. The bill, House File 100, passed by a vote of 71-59 on Tuesday and will now head to the state Senate for consideration.
All but one of the representatives from the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party were joined by two Republicans to vote in favor of the bill on Tuesday. Prior to debate on the measure the day before, DFL Representative Zack Stephenson said that decades of cannabis prohibition have not worked to make the state safer.
“It’s time,” Stephenson said at a press conference on Monday. “Minnesotans deserve the freedom and respect to make responsible decisions about cannabis themselves.”
House File 100 would permit adults aged 21 and older to possess up to two ounces of cannabis flower in a public place and up to 1.5 pounds at a private residence. The bill also allows home cultivation, with a cap of eight cannabis plants including up to four flowering plants. Adults would also be permitted to possess up to eight grams of cannabis concentrates and marijuana edibles infused with up to 800 milligrams of THC. The legislation also legalizes the consumption of cannabis in a private area and permits adults to gift cannabis to another adult up to the public possession limit.
“Minnesotans have told us loud and clear that prohibition is the problem, not cannabis,” said DFL Representative Jessica Hanson. “And that they expect us to bring an end to the sinister days of prohibition and create a safe, legal, regulated market that promotes equity and reparation for our errors of the past.”
The legislation also includes measures to legalize the production and sale of adult-use cannabis. An Office of Cannabis Management would be created to oversee the licensing and regulation of cannabis cultivators, processors, distributors and retailers. A tax rate of 8% would be levied on cannabis products in addition to state and local sales taxes. The bill also expunges past convictions for low-level marijuana offenses and contains social equity provisions to provide grants to individuals entering the regulated cannabis industry.
Bill Faced Republican Opposition in Minnesota
The bill faced strong opposition from Republicans in the House who said that communities that do not want marijuana businesses will be forced to allow retail dispensaries in their jurisdictions.
“We’re gonna say, ‘You know what? Stick this bill in your pipe and smoke it and take it because we know best,’” said Republican Representative Chris Swedzinski. “That’s what you’re telling these small towns to do with this bill. We’re gonna stick it down your throat and you’re gonna like it. And if you don’t like it and you say, ‘Fly a kite, state Legislature.’ We’re going to open you up to litigation.”
Republican Representative Kristin Robbins said that the bill does not include provisions to allow local governments to set licensing fees or adopt additional regulations on cannabis businesses.
“Cities want the ability to regulate the number of licenses in their jurisdiction,” Robbins said, adding that she would like to see provisions that allow local governments to revoke licenses held by problematic businesses.
The Senate version of the bill includes provisions that allow local governments to set a cap on the number of licenses. But supporters of the House bill noted that other states that have included local control over licensing have seen significant challenges in establishing a viable regulated cannabis economy.
“States that have allowed opt outs, that’s where the illicit market continues to thrive and grow,” Stephenson said. “We need to have a uniform set of cannabis standards across the state to make sure that we’re doing the best we can to curb the illicit marketplace and move to a legitimate marketplace with consumer protections and controls.”
If passed by the state Senate and signed into law by Democratic Governor Tim Walz, Minnesota would become the 23rd state in the nation to end the prohibition on cannabis. Krissy Atterholt, an associate attorney at cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente LLP, noted that Minnesota’s licensed cannabis retailers will likely have the opportunity to serve consumers from several Midwestern states.
“Minnesota is one step closer to providing residents safe, regulated access to legalized adult-use cannabis,” Atterholt wrote in an email to High Times. “The state is progressing toward becoming the next great cannabis opportunity in the Midwest. Not a single state sharing a border with Minnesota has enacted adult-use cannabis opportunities, leaving the market wide open for businesses and consumers.”
House File 100 now heads to the state Senate, where debate on the measure is scheduled for Friday. Stephenson has said he is confident the bill will also succeed in the upper chamber of the Minnesota legislature.