Six Senate committees have now approved the bill, with several new amendments added along the way.
A bill legalizing adult-use cannabis in Minnesota is slowly but steadily making its way through the long and winding road of House and Senate committee hearings. As first reported by Marijuana Moment, the bill, a similar iteration of one sponsored by former House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D) that failed to pass in 2021, received approval by a sixth Senate committee this week.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed the legislation via a voice vote on Tuesday. The bill's sponsor in the Senate is Sen. Lindsey Port (D). Its counterpart measure in the House, crafted by Rep. Zack Stephenson (D), has also received approval from several House committees.
With both chambers of the State House and the Governor's office controlled by the Democratic-Labor-Farm Party, the chances for recreational marijuana finally being legalized in Minnesota have never been this promising. Bolstering the effort, Governor Tim Walz (D) has gone on record numerous times voicing his strong support for ending cannabis prohibition.
His recently released biennial budget request includes funding to implement marijuana legalization and criminal expungements. It also details projections concerning the substantial tax revenue estimated to be collected from cannabis sales if the reform passes.
For her part, Senator Port has been a steadfast and determined advocate for reversing the state's policy on adult-use marijuana. During the committee hearing on Tuesday, she stated, "This is not something we are flippantly moving without thought. This is something we're taking very seriously. We're taking it seriously because it has done significant harm to our communities—the prohibition of cannabis has done significant harm to our communities. And we see it as critical that we do what we can to undo that harm."
"This is not something we are flippantly moving without thought. This is something we're taking very seriously. We're taking it seriously because it has done significant harm to our communities—the prohibition of cannabis has done significant harm to our communities. And we see it as critical that we do what we can to undo that harm."
- Sen. Lindsey Port (D)
However, the landmark legislation's path to becoming law will require more than speeches and positive vibes. To many advocates and stakeholders, the bill is far from perfect and will need significant adjustments before a final vote in the House and Senate. To that end, several amendments have been added to the measure to help bolster its efficacy for ratification.
Below is a list of some of those additions:
Cannabis products will be required to have warning labels about their effects on people under 25.
Cannabis products cannot be accessible to children and must be stored away from food items.
Officials will be directed to gather information from state courts and hospitals to determine whether there is an increase in mental health and substance use disorder services and emergency room visits following marijuana legalization.
The Commissioner of Human Services and two licensed mental health professionals will become part of the Cannabis Advisory Council.
Hospitals and medical facilities will not be allowed to "unreasonably limit a patient's access to, or use of medical cannabis," and restrictions on when patients with certain conditions can qualify for medical marijuana will be removed.
The committee also declined to add a few proposed amendments, including one that would raise the legal age for marijuana from 21 to 25.
The next stop for the Senate version of the bill is the Human Services Committee on Wednesday, while the House version is to be evaluated by the Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee on Thursday.
With recent polls indicating that over 60% of Minnesotans approve of adult-use marijuana legalization, it is clear that most voters want a bill ending prohibition to pass. However, the jury is still out on whether or not this version of the bill is optimum for becoming the law of the land.
Even with the numerous amendments, as currently constructed, both the House and Senate versions still contain provisions that could devastate many small to medium-sized businesses by creating unnecessary and expensive tax burdens, particularly in Minnesota's thriving hemp-based low-THC edibles and beverage industry.
However, there is still time for lawmakers to get it right. One of the positive aspects of the State House machine is the committee process. By allowing more perspectives and voices to influence the precise crafting of proposed legislation, blind spots and economic and legal "gotchas" can be avoided. The future for legal cannabis is undoubtedly bright for the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but "patience and prudence" should be the mantra for those individuals in charge of guiding Minnesota's marijuana ship down the river of legalization creation.