Legalization in Minnesota

Stephen Andrews
24 May 2023

Minnesota senators passed a bill over the weekend that would allow the recreational use of cannabis for everyone of legal age above 21. Once the bill is signed by Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, The North Star State will become the 23rd state in the US to legalize adult use of cannabis. The measure has already been approved by the House and will be signed into law by the governor by the end of the month.

Under the new bill, cannabis will become legal in Minnesota on Aug. 1. Adults aged 21 and above will be able to possess, use and grow cannabis at home. The possession of flower is limited to 2 pounds at home and 2 ounces in public. Other possession caps include 800 milligrams of THC in gummies and other edibles and 8 grams of cannabis concentrate. 

The measure will also prepare the ground for legal dispensaries, which will launch retail sometime in 2024. Marijuana products will be subject to a 10% tax added to an existing sales tax. Local governments will have negotiating powers to limit the number of dispensaries and keep them away from schools, however, they would be unable to ban them altogether. 

Minnesotans convicted of a misdemeanor or simple possession will get their records automatically expunged through the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. The expungement process will be completed by August next year. 

People convicted of selling marijuana or have other more serious but nonviolent cannabis-related offenses would no longer be crimes or would be reclassified as lesser offenses. They will also have the option to petition the court to clear their records or reduce their sentence. 

The bill passed in the Senate on Saturday, May 20, with a party-line 34-32 vote. 

Democratic Sen. Lindsey Port of Burnsville said that legalization would protect vulnerable populations from the harmful effects of the illicit market and that having a regulated market would reduce risks to public health and safety. "Minnesotans are ready. Let's legalize, regulate and expunge," Port said. 

Republican Sen. Jordan Rasmusson of Fergus Falls opposed the bill on the Senate floor Saturday, saying that the new measure gives "bonus points" to people who have committed drug crimes in the past and that the bill is driven by commercial interest. 

"The fundamental flaw with this bill is that the starting point of it from proponents has been about creating an industry to fit their ideology," Rasmusson said. 

The move to pass a cannabis legalization bill in Minnesota followed after Democrats took full control of state government at the beginning of 2023. For the first time in eight years, the Democrats were able to pass a long list of legislative priorities that the previous Senate Republican majority had blocked. A legalization measure was previously blocked in the Senate in 2021 and 2020. 

Minnesota legalized the medicinal use of cannabis in 2014. More than 40,000 patients are registered with the state's medicinal cannabis program. Chronic pain, PTSD, and intractable pain are the three most common health reasons Minnesotans use cannabis for treatment. 

Stephen Andrews