Gov. Tim Walz signs recreational marijuana bill

Gov. Tim Walz (DFL) signed a bill Tuesday to legalize recreational marijuana for people over the age of 21. The bill is one of the most talked about during this legislative session. Minnesota is the 23rd state to legalize the substance for adults. Related: Chapter 63, House File 100

“Prohibition has not worked. We need to put things in place that are safe. And for those who make the comments, we’re certainly not advocating for our children,” said Walz. “We’re trying to make sure that there is a regulatory regime put in place, there are processes put in place. There’s the ability for adults to make those decisions without criminalizing them.”

Once it takes effect on August 1, it will be legal to possess, use and grow marijuana at home. The legislation will allow Minnesotans who are 21 and older to have up to 2 ounces of cannabis flower, 8 grams of concentrate and 800 milligrams of edible products, as well as up to two pounds of cannabis flower at a private residence. Stricter caps will be placed on cannabis products with concentrated THC.

Retail sales at dispensaries will probably be at least a year away. Once licensed, stores will charge sales tax plus a 10% cannabis tax.

“There’s a lot of work to be done standing up the marketplace, making sure that we have all of the regulations and rules to protect people’s health and safety and consumer protections, all the benefits that a legitimate marketplace offers that will probably take 12 to 18 months beyond that, before you see retail locations open right away,” explained Rep. Zach Stephenson, the author of the House bill.

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The other big part of the legislation is the expungement of past misdemeanor marijuana-related convictions for Minnesotans. However, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) estimates it will take until August of 2024 to erase all of those convictions. Minnesotans who have been convicted of misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor possession will also get their records automatically expunged. Others with more serious convictions, such as those with possession offenses that exceeded even the new limits, may also be able to apply for reduced sentences.

“We’re trying it in a way that is unique to Minnesota that really delves into the realities of Minnesota, that looks at entrepreneurial spirit, that looks at reinvesting in communities that have been harmed,” shared Sen. Lindsey Port, the author of the Senate bill. “And most importantly, that puts front and center in this legislation the expungement piece to make sure that we are undoing some of the harm that we have done as a state through the prohibition of cannabis.”

Former Gov. Jesse Ventura, who supported legalization when he served from 1999-2003, attended the signing ceremony. Walz said in November that Ventura would be invited because Ventura was one of the first governors in the country to support legalization.

“After years of prohibition, we didn’t want any families to go through what the first lady and I went through. We don’t want anyone to ask to ever do that in Minnesota. Now, today, they will never have to because prohibition will end today on cannabis,” shared Ventura.

Democrats took full control of state government when the Legislature convened for its 2023 session, marking the first time in eight years they have held the “trifecta” of the Senate, House and governor’s office. With that power, they passed a long list of legislative priorities — including legalization — that the previous Senate Republican majority had blocked.

Walz has long been a supporter of legalizing recreational marijuana for adults. In 2021, the Democratic-controlled House passed a legalization bill with several Republicans voting yes, but the GOP-controlled Senate never gave it a vote.

“It has gotten here today because of the people of Minnesota, because you all stood up and said, this is what we want. We are ready for this,” said Sen. Port. “You organized through patients who needed medicinal marijuana. You organized through veterans, through farmers, through hemp growers, through retailers. It is a full group effort.”

Last year, the Legislature passed a bill legalizing THC in edible or drinkable form if it’s derived from hemp. Many lawmakers apparently didn’t realize what they were doing as it sailed through under the radar. Low-strength gummies and beverages have been on sale since July.

The state’s Office of Cannabis Management website is already active and has more information for Minnesotans here.