After months of hearings, debates and heated discussions with advocates, stakeholders and policy critics, a measure legalizing adult-use marijuana in Minnesota passed in the House of Representatives.
Minnesota is on the precipice to become the 23rd state in America to legalize adult-use cannabis following a crucial vote this week. According to multiple local and national media outlets, after two days of debate, House members voted 71-59 to approve the passage of HF 100 (with amendments), a bill to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older in the state of Minnesota.
Before Tuesday's vote, the controversial and much-scrutinized measure progressed through an exhaustive committee evaluation process that saw it move through 15 total hearings on its way to the House floor. Following the approval win, the bill's sponsor in the House, Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL), expressed feelings of pride, satisfaction and continued determination.
He said, "This is a bill that we can be proud of. I challenge anyone to come up with a bill that has gone through more rigorous policy development, a more open transparent policy development. Years of public hearings, town halls going around the state, 16 hearings just this year, just this chamber, over 20 hours of debate, more than 20 Republican amendments accepted. We've done the work here. And Minnesotans know that."
"This is a bill that we can be proud of. I challenge anyone to come up with a bill that has gone through more rigorous policy development, a more open transparent policy development. Years of public hearings, town halls going around the state, 16 hearings just this year, just this chamber, over 20 hours of debate, more than 20 Republican amendments accepted. We've done the work here. And Minnesotans know that."
- MN State Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL)
All eyes will now shift to the Senate, where HF 100's companion bill, SF 73, still has one more committee hurdle to pass before it moves to the Senate floor for a vote. If the Senate Finance Committee votes to approve the measure on Wednesday, the bill could face a vote by Senators before the end of the week.
If the measure receives approval from the Senate, it is almost certain that the bill will become law. With the Democratic-Farm-Labor Party in control of both State House chambers and the Governor's office, the potentially historic legislation will face little resistance from any area of state government. Gov. Tim Walz has gone on the record numerous times, pledging to sign a cannabis legalization bill if one reaches his desk.
Despite the substantial positive momentum for legalization, several groups have expressed concern over certain aspects of the bill, most notably from those small business entrepreneurs in the burgeoning Minnesota hemp industry. Many hemp advocates worry that in a rush to get recreational marijuana legalized, lawmakers and deep-pocketed corporate cannabis interests may bulldoze over and obliterate the painstakingly hard work of many individuals and businesses in the hemp-based product sector.
To address those concerns, along with numerous others highlighted during the legislation's committee sojourn, Stephenson and his Senate counterpart, Sen. Lindsey Port (DFL), have added over 20 amendments to their respective bills, a few of which specifically address issues brought up by lobbyists and stakeholders in the hemp industry. As a result, both sponsors feel they have adequately adjusted their companion measures to alleviate any misgivings or fears expressed by groups like hemp business owners.
As it currently stands, if the bill were to become law, it would effectively do the following:
Allow adults 21 and older to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana in public and up to 1.5 pounds at home.
Allow adults 21 and older to grow up to four mature flowering plants.
Create an Office of Cannabis Management to set specific rules for licensed cultivation, manufacturing and sales (including fees and license caps)
Establish a state gross-receipts tax of 8% and ban all local taxes.
Allow hemp-derived cannabinoids in finished edible products while prohibiting "artificially synthesized" variants such as THC-O.
Create a new license category for hemp-based businesses that sell "lower-potency edible products."
Reduce regulatory requirements for those hemp licensees.
Assess civil penalties against those who violate the law, such as any individual selling without a state license.
If the Senate does pass its version of the measure, a bicameral conference committee will likely need to convene to iron out any outstanding differences between the House and Senate versions. With the legislative session ending on May 22nd, lawmakers and those groups, like the hemp stakeholders, still expressing concerns over the legislation, will still have a few weeks to pass a final product that hopefully satisfies all affected parties.
It could then progress to Gov. Walz's desk and, with his expected signature, make Minnesota the 23rd state to embrace legal adult-use marijuana.