Minnesota Senate Approves Cannabis Legalization Bill

minnesota cannabis

The Minnesota Senate has approved the Minnesota cannabis legalization bill and sent it to the desk of Gov. Tim Walz for signing. This is a historic step that will bring change to the drug laws in the state. Adults 21 years or older will be able to use legal cannabis by August 1. Minnesota will be the 23rd state to legalize recreational cannabis. Supporters of Minnesota cannabis laws said passing the bill will boost public health and social justice. Above the current sales taxes, there will be an additional 10% tax on weed products.

The bill won by 1 vote only

The passing of the bill by the Senate was historical because it won by just 1 vote after a 34-33 vote. There were several amendments added to the bill before the Senate voted and passed it. One of the amendments was a provision allowing local governments to add restrictions on retailers.

There was jubilation among supporters who felt the Minnesota cannabis laws are their best chance for a new experience. They argued that cannabis convictions mainly affected Minnesotans of color. Once the governor signs, all previous low-level marijuana convictions will be expunged. During the debate, Republicans in the Senate argued that the bill might not become law this year and had a lot of issues to be resolved.

Some of their concerns were the impact legalization might have on crime, traffic safety, mental health, and addiction. Republican Senator Warren Limmer argued that the Senate was opening a door that would be very hard to close. He argued once a genie is removed from a bottle, it’s very hard to put it back. Once signed, Minnesotans will begin to possess legal weed this summer.

Decriminalization will be effective in August this year and the state will begin to issue licenses to dispensaries once they complete working on all regulations. Issuing licenses might take from 12 to 18 months to allow sales to start.


The House passes legalization bill too

The Minnesota House of Representatives also passed a companion bill. It set the ground ready for a conference committee to meet and remove any inconsistencies in the two bills. Both bills contain over 300 pages although they contain several major differences. Once the inconsistencies are cleared, the final bill will be taken to the House and Senate for voting.

The main differences between the two Minnesota cannabis bills are as follows:

  • The House bill allows possession of up to two pounds of weed but the Senate bill allows possession of up to five pounds and a further two pounds from any source except home cultivation.
  • The Senate Minnesota cannabis bill permits local governments to put limits on the total number of cannabis retailers in their jurisdiction but the House bill does not limit it. Both versions however prohibit cities and counties to enact policies that outrightly ban dispensaries.
  • The Senate Minnesota cannabis legalization bill imposes a 10% tax on cannabis products but the House bill imposes 8%.
  • The two bills set up an Office of Cannabis Management that will be responsible for all licensing and regulations activities.

One of the groups that have advocated the formation of the bill is MN is Ready coalition under the leadership of Ryan Winkler. He said he expects a few bumps on the way as the new agency drafts regulations to enact the Minnesota cannabis laws. He said he has observed other markets and seen the same challenges in such a scenario.

It happens where consumer demand for a new product is high and it is hard to balance supply versus demand in the initial phases. Ryan said there might not be a significant difference in Minnesota compared to other states. Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson said after analyzing the bill, he noted it’s not enough for public safety or public health. He said it will put the local governments in the state at the bottom of the stick.

A chance to right the wrongs

Senator Lindsey Port said she was full of joy due to the passing of the bill. She noted the best strategy to keep kids safe from accessing cannabis was to pass Minnesota cannabis laws and regulate the sector. She said the Minnesota cannabis legalization bill was for adult use and will only allow weed products to be sold to users from 21 years and above in specific locations just like alcohol.

Port added that the current cannabis prohibition systems are not working and cannot achieve the goals the legislators are setting out. Working under the current system pauses a risk to public safety, public health, and children because it’s not working. She said if there was a way out to resolve the current situation through law, the Senate would have done it.

Port Said she had the best team who jointly put their efforts to co-author the bill, research it, and discuss it. The bill has gone through a month-long legislative journey that included a lot of committee hearings in the two chambers. Its vote marked the end of the long struggles. Port has all along been supporting legalization and has been using her Twitter account to lobby for support.

Senator Clare Oumou Verbeten said the bill was all the time about making sure those affected most by cannabis prohibition benefit from the Minnesota cannabis laws. She said she is aware that the Black community in Minnesota is likely to be incarcerated for cannabis offenses five times more. She said that is wrong and is a racial injustice.

Clare noted that the bill provides an opportunity to right the wrongs. One of the ways to do that is to expunge records in an instant. She encouraged Minnesotans who had been convicted and families that have been affected by cannabis prohibition laws to be the first ones to apply for licenses to sell weed products.

She noted those affected by the convictions were the ones who suffered the most and lost jobs and education opportunities. It is time to take advantage and benefit from the new Minnesota cannabis legalization laws.

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