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Minnesota Lawmakers Introduce “the Best Legalization Bill in the Country”

by Sarah Cawthon May 21, 2020

Earlier this year, Minnesota House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler touted what he called “the best legalization bill in the country”. Shortly after, however, the state’s attention shifted to focus on the fallout of the global COVID-19 pandemic that has stalled marijuana reform across the country.

Nevertheless, as states have begun moving toward normalcy in recent weeks, Winkler and 33 cosponsors finally introduced the much anticipated bill, HF 4632, on May 5.

“Our current priority is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Winkler said, “but after the town halls and discussions around this issue, we still wanted to put a strong bill forward. As we look to come out of this crisis as a better, stronger Minnesota, we need to continue working toward legalizing cannabis for responsible adult use.”

The robust, 222-page bill was crafted after months of public discussions and research that include an analysis of the success and challenges of cannabis legalization in other states; it’s Minnesota’s ambitious attempt to tackle some of the most prominent issues regarding cannabis today.

Unlike other states, the legislation does not include provisions that allow local jurisdictions to ban cannabis businesses, and places social equity at the forefront. The bill also provides a regulatory framework for a commercial cannabis industry to be established in Minnesota. Labeling, packaging, and testing requirements would be implemented for cannabis products and dosage sizes would be restricted, among other regulations.

The bill’s length can be attributed to the vast detail included that many states typically leave to be discussed by regulatory agencies after it is passed. Details may be subject to change as the proposal moves through the legislative process. 

“We will have everything ready to go,” Gov. Tim Walz said, “and we will be able to implement it in Minnesota the minute the Legislature moves this.”

As it is currently written, the bill would allow Minnesota adults 21 and older to possess and transport up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana and keep up to 10 pounds at their private residence. Adults could grow up to eight marijuana plants at home, four of which may be flowering, would also be legalized. Gifting small amounts to other adults would also be legal.

The legal industry would be overseen by a seven-person Cannabis Management Board, appointed by the governor. The board would also run certain mission-focused divisions, such as the Office of Medical Cannabis, which would operate the state’s existing medical marijuana program, and the Office of Social Equity, which would promote “development, stability, and safety in communities that experienced a disproportionate, negative impact from cannabis prohibition.”

Efforts to address the tribulations of cannabis prohibition are also evident throughout the bill. Several social equity provisions are included that would establish the Office of Social Equity, which would be responsible for the distribution of grants to promote economic opportunity and community stability.

“Minnesotans have been loud and clear that our current cannabis laws are doing more harm than good,” said Winkler. “By creating a regulatory framework, we can address the harms caused by cannabis and establish a more sensible set of laws to improve our health care and criminal justice systems and ensure better outcomes for communities.”

The bill provides for expungement of many past cannabis convictions automatically, without the need for individuals to file petitions in court. Records wouldn’t be destroyed outright, the bill says, but would be sealed from public view and disclosed only if ordered by a court or other legal authority.

It would also prioritize social equity and diversity in industry licensing. The bill says that status as a social equity applicant must account for “at least 20 percent” of points when regulators score license applications.

The bill, as currently written, would create an array of business licenses for cannabis cultivators, cannabis manufacturers, cannabis retailers, cannabis wholesalers, cannabis transporters, cannabis testing facilities, cannabis microbusinesses, cannabis event organizers, cannabis delivery services and medical cannabis businesses.

The commissioner will establish and collect the application and annual renewal fee. The board will also issue the necessary number of licenses​ in order to assure sufficient supply of cannabis and cannabis products to meet customer demand,​ provide market stability and limit the sale of unregulated cannabis. ​These issues are anticipated to be discussed before the bill is passed into law.

Additionally, the bill states that municipalities are not able “to prohibit the establishment or operation of a cannabis business licensed under this chapter.” However, jurisdictions would still be permitted to set time, place and manner restrictions on businesses’ operations.

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With a lengthy bill, comes lengthy discussions, and Winkler has acknowledged that the path to legalization in Minnesota could take more than one year accomplish. However, since the bill contains all the details needed to implement the program once passed, it is never too early to begin preparing for marijuana business opportunities in Minnesota, and our Marijuana Business Starter Package includes everything you need to get started.

The package includes an informational overview of state specific marijuana laws and program, our Marijuana Business Application Guide & ChecklistMarijuana Business Plan Template and our Marijuana Dispensary and Cultivation Financial Plan Template.