With much fanfare and a gathering of notable political VIPs, Governor Walz signed the long-awaited measure making recreational marijuana legal in Minnesota.
With a stroke of his executive pen, Governor Tim Walz (DFL) made Minnesota the 23rd state to legalize adult-use cannabis in the United States on Tuesday. According to numerous local and national media outlets, Walz signed the much-anticipated and hotly debated reform legislation during a special ceremony at the state capitol surrounded by cannabis advocates and former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, a longtime and passionate advocate for legalization.
Walz, who promised to sign HF100 long before a revised and amended version of the bill was approved by both the House and Senate last week, said, “This has been a long journey with a lot of folks involved. What we know right now is prohibition does not work. We’ve criminalized a lot of folks who are going to start the expungement process on those records.”
"This has been a long journey with a lot of folks involved. What we know right now is prohibition does not work. We’ve criminalized a lot of folks who are going to start the expungement process on those records.”
- Minnesota Governor Tim Walz (DFL)
The law, which goes into effect on August 1, will allow for the following:
Minnesotans 21 and older can legally possess up to two ounces of cannabis in public and up to two pounds in their residences. Likewise, they can cultivate up to eight plants at home, four of which can be mature.
Licenses for retail dispensaries to begin regulated sales will be issued in the next 12-18 months.
Beginning March 1, 2025, current medical marijuana companies can receive new combination licenses allowing them to participate in the adult-use market.
Individuals with certain cannabis misdemeanor offenses on their records will have them automatically expunged beginning in August. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will be in charge of identifying those people eligible for relief from the courts.
Along with establishing a system of licensed marijuana businesses, counties and municipalities will be allowed to own and operate government dispensaries.
A 10% gross receipts tax on cannabis sales will be applied in addition to the standard 6.875% state sales tax.
80% of that taxed revenue will go to the state’s general fund, with the remaining 20% going to local governments.
Local municipalities cannot prohibit cannabis businesses from operating in their areas. However, they will be empowered to set “reasonable” regulations concerning the time of operation and location.
A new Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) will be established. Its primary responsibilities will include issuing cannabis business licenses and regulating the market.
The OCM will have a Division for Social Equity designated to promote social equity by ensuring diversity in licensing by scoring equity applicants higher.
Following the ceremony, Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who provided emotional testimony during the committee hearing process about having to illegally obtain marijuana to help treat his wife’s debilitating epilepsy, said, “This was a huge day in our family’s life because prohibition will now end. It’s gone on longer than I’ve been alive, the prohibition of a plant made by god. We were always told everything was here for us to use. Now in Minnesota, we will be able to use this plant after years of prohibition.”
"This was a huge day in our family’s life because prohibition will now end. It’s gone on longer than I’ve been alive, the prohibition of a plant made by god. We were always told everything was here for us to use. Now in Minnesota, we will be able to use this plant after years of prohibition.”
- Former MN Governor Jesse Ventura
Along with providing many of the same provisions found in other states’ legalization statutes, Minnesota’s new law is unique in several respects. First, it is one of a handful of states that passed its law through the state legislative process instead of a ballot initiative (Minnesota does not allow citizen-initiated ballot questions).
Secondly, because of its firmly established hemp-based product industry and lobby, Minnesota lawmakers added specific tenets to the legalization measure permitting the sale of hemp-derived cannabinoids, such as the controversial and politically toxic delta-8 THC variant.
So, while fourteen states, including many with legal adult-use cannabis markets, have passed legislation severely restricting or altogether banning hemp-based products, the Minnesota law will, in contrast, allow business owners to apply for a “mezzo-business” license. The new licensing category will allow holders to cultivate, manufacture and operate up to three retail locations selling cannabis and items containing hemp-derived cannabinoids.
In describing his joy and pride concerning the unique nature of the newly inked law, Rep. Zack Stephenson (D), the House sponsor of the bill, said, “While Minnesota might be the 23rd state to legalize cannabis, I think we’ve passed the best bill in the country that Minnesotans can be really proud of. We’ve built a model that will work for Minnesota specifically, and I think Minnesotans will be really pleased with the results of that work.”
"While Minnesota might be the 23rd state to legalize cannabis, I think we’ve passed the best bill in the country that Minnesotans can be really proud of. We’ve built a model that will work for Minnesota specifically, and I think Minnesotans will be really pleased with the results of that work.”
- MN State Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL)
However, not all aspects of the historic law are being received with as much excitement as the sentiments shared by the governors, current and past, and Rep. Stephenson. One of the more perplexing legal provisions stoking rancor, particularly in the hemp-based sector, makes it illegal to sell non-intoxicating products at a licensed business, meaning products like a CBD tincture with zero intoxicating THC elements cannot be sold legally under the new law.
For hemp business owners like Nothing But Hemp CEO Steven Brown, whose loyal customer base has come to rely on his company’s wide selection of non-intoxicating hemp-derived product offerings, this is an example of some of the not-so-ideal and frustrating elements of the new law. Brown and his fellow small hemp business entrepreneurs fought tirelessly to preserve their industry’s viability and integrity throughout the long and, at times, contentious legislative journey for the new law.
To have to continue to jump through legal hoops and figure out relentlessly creative “workarounds” for such arbitrary and unnecessary legal “gotchas” from a law that is supposed to create a safe and regulated haven for marijuana enthusiasts in Minnesota is beyond exasperating for Brown and other leading voices in the hemp industry.
However, there is still a significant time buffer before licenses are issued and retail sales begin. Hopefully, leaders in the state legislature and the governor’s office will take the time to rethink some of the more questionable parts of the new law and provide some legislative “tweaks” to alleviate the legal burden for businesses like Brown’s.
In the meantime, it is a time for celebration in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” Prohibition is over, and the magical power of the ancient cannabis sativa plant will soon be legally and safely available to all Minnesotans 21 and older. Tuesday was indeed a good day.