Minnesota, known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, has become the 23rd U.S. state to officially legalize the recreational use of cannabis for adults. As of Tuesday, Aug. 1, residents of Minnesota are now permitted to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal recreational purposes, albeit within certain restrictions to ensure a controlled implementation while the state establishes a comprehensive legal cannabis industry.
The legalization initiative was spearheaded by the Democratic-controlled Minnesota Legislature, which passed a significant bill in favor of cannabis legalization. Governor Tim Walz, also a Democrat, signed the bill into law in May. Notably, some Minnesota tribes are capitalizing on their sovereignty and have already taken steps to enable cannabis sales. However, the majority of legal retail sales are expected to commence around early 2025. This delay is attributed to the state’s efforts in developing a licensing and regulatory framework for the emerging cannabis industry.
The decision to legalize cannabis came after a heated debate between critics, who expressed concerns about potential negative impacts on public safety and young individuals, and supporters, who argued that the prohibition of the drug had proven ineffective. Proponents of legalization emphasized the disproportionate impact of drug-related arrests on people of color compared to white individuals, leading to lasting repercussions in terms of employment and housing.
In conclusion, Minnesota has taken a significant step in reshaping its cannabis policies, aiming to strike a balance between allowing recreational use and maintaining responsible oversight during the establishment of a fully functioning legal cannabis sector.
While New York faces challenges in ending the illicit cannabis trade and struggles to quickly license legal shops, with a focus on “social equity,” New Mexico is dealing with retailers being punished for selling marijuana from California illegally. Additionally, the wider availability and declining prices of cannabis have affected pot farmers.
As of August 1, certain changes take effect in Minnesota:
WHAT’S LEGAL Individuals aged 21 and above can possess and transport within the state up to 2 ounces of cannabis flower, 8 grams of concentrate, and THC-containing edible products such as gummies and seltzers amounting to 800 milligrams. They can also keep up to 2 pounds of cannabis flower at home. Low-potency edibles made with THC derived from industrial hemp were legalized last year and are now subject to a 10 percent marijuana tax since July 1. The same tax will apply to other marijuana products once they receive licenses for sale, except on sovereign tribal lands. Importing marijuana from out of state remains illegal under federal law.
RETAIL SALES The Red Lake Nation plans to commence recreational marijuana sales at its existing medical cannabis dispensary starting August 1, but this applies only to its remote reservation in northwestern Minnesota. It is uncertain whether other tribes will follow suit.
Minnesota’s path to legalization may take longer compared to states like New Mexico, as the law prioritizes social equity considerations when awarding licenses. This means applicants from low-income areas disproportionately affected by marijuana’s illegal status, individuals with expunged convictions related to cannabis, and military veterans who lost their honorable status due to a marijuana-related offense, among others, receive special consideration.
Various license categories for cannabis-related businesses are available, with application fees ranging from US$250 for delivery services to US$10,000 for growers and product manufacturers.
While local governments cannot ban cannabis sales, they can restrict the number of retailers to one per 12,500 residents.
MINNESOTA GROWN Adults are allowed to grow up to eight cannabis plants at home, with a maximum of four flowering at a time. These plants must be cultivated in an enclosed and locked space, whether indoors or in a garden. Retailers can sell marijuana seeds if they comply with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s labeling and other requirements.
WHERE TO CONSUME AND WHERE NOT TO Cannabis consumption is permitted on private property, including private homes. Eventually, it will also be allowed at special events with appropriate permits.
However, smoking or vaping cannabis remains illegal in places where tobacco smoking is prohibited, such as most businesses, apartment buildings, and college campuses. Though smoking cannabis on a public sidewalk is not prohibited by state law, local ordinances may apply.
Cannabis use remains strictly prohibited while driving, in public schools, on school buses, in state prisons, and on federal property. Smoking or vaping cannabis is not allowed where minors could be exposed to it.
GUNS AND CANNABIS Federal law still prohibits cannabis consumers from owning firearms or ammunition, despite the Second Amendment-friendly provisions in Minnesota’s state law. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives considers a “current user” of marijuana as an “unlawful user” for federal purposes, making individuals following state law ineligible to possess guns and cannabis. On ATF forms, gun purchasers must state whether or not they use marijuana, and providing false information on the form is a federal felony.
CLEANING CRIMINAL RECORDS Starting in August, minor marijuana convictions, like those for possessing small amounts, will begin to be automatically expunged. Over 60,000 Minnesotans may benefit from this, but the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension warns that the process may take up to a year to clear everyone’s records. A special Cannabis Expungement Board will be established to review felony convictions on a case-by-case basis to determine eligibility for expungement.
REGULATING THE INDUSTRY The Office of Cannabis Management will oversee Minnesota’s cannabis industry. Job positions are being listed, and applications for the office’s first executive director are open until July 31. The office will also take over the management of Minnesota’s medical marijuana program, which will not be subject to taxation. Tribal governments have the authority to set their own rules regarding cannabis.
Article First Seen on The National Post
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