Minnesota Democrats propose new bill to legalize adult-use marijuana

Minnesota would spend millions of dollars to create an Office of Cannabis Management under a bill Democrats introduced Thursday to legalize recreational marijuana use for Minnesotans ages 21 and older.

Under HF 100, Minnesota would establish the office with about $15.25 million from its general fund over the course of fiscal years 2024 and 2025. The base for this appropriation is $14.7 million in fiscal year 2026 and $21.0 million in fiscal year 2027. The state would also spend a total of $1.6 million for fiscal years 2026 and 2027 on substance use disorder treatment and prevention grants. The state would appropriate $12 million of those funds in fiscal year 2026 and $20 million in fiscal year 2027 for cannabis industry community renewal grants and their administration.

A council of state commissioners, governor-appointed experts, and patient advocates would review cannabis policy and industry developments and advise the office.

In addition to establishing the office to mirror other state agencies' the bill also is distinct from a 2021 bill, HF 600, that passed the House but failed in the Senate in that it taxes gross receipts at 8% instead of 10% and creates graduated penalties for possession of illegal amounts of cannabis instead of determining whether the person purchased the cannabis legally, MinnPost reported.

Starting with property taxes payable in 2024, property used to grow, process or store cannabis for sale would be subject to 1.5% property taxes up to the first $150,000 of market value and 2% of the remaining market value. Local taxes on cannabis would be prohibited. Retailers would be forbidden by law from selling products marketed to children.

The Department of Employment and Economic Development would establish a CanStartup grant program for nonprofits that fund loans to new legal cannabis businesses and support job creation in communities where long-term residents are eligible to be social equity applicants. A CanNavigate program would award grants to organizations to help individuals navigate cannabis regulations, and a CanTrain grant program would fund industry training.

A Cannabis Expungement Board would determine whether the state should vacate convictions of people charged or convicted with possession of a controlled substance, dismiss charges and expunge records or resentence individuals to a lesser offense. The state would spend $921,000 in fiscal year 2024 and $844,000 in fiscal year 2025 for the board’s staffing and expenses.

“We know Minnesota’s current cannabis laws are doing more harm than good,” Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, the bill’s author, said in a statement. “Over the last 3 years, DFLers in the legislature have worked and listened to build a Minnesota-specific model for cannabis legalization. Our bill creates a safe, well-regulated legal marketplace, including best practices for consumer protection, health, and public safety. It also includes a robust expungement program, so people who have disproportionately been caught in the criminal justice system due to cannabis can move on with their lives. Minnesota is ready for legalization.”

Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, said legislators shouldn’t be hasty and should hear from law enforcement, employers, addiction counselors, educators and others concerned about legalizing marijuana, he said.

“We know that even small changes in this area of law can lead to huge changes in the market and in people's practices,” he said. “We don't take the risks that marijuana poses to youth, minorities, and the vulnerable, lightly. The Senate DFL will need to decide if they want to rush this process to keep their political partners happy or take their time to decide if full-blown legalization is the right thing for Minnesota.”

Gov. Tim Walz said in a statement on Twitter he supports legalizing adult-use cannabis and expunging cannabis convictions.

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