Governor Tim Walz signs Recreational Ccannabis bill into law
Minnesota has officially become the 23rd state to legalize recreational cannabis use - but don't light up just yet.
Gov. Tim Walz signed the bill into law Tuesday. The 300-page bill allows adults 21 and older to use recreational marijuana and transforms a black market into regulated, state-licensed businesses throughout the state. It also expunges low-level cannabis convictions.
"We've known for too long that prohibiting the use of cannabis hasn't worked. By legalizing adult-use cannabis, we're expanding our economy, creating jobs, and regulating the industry to keep Minnesotans safe," Walz said. "Legalizing adult-use cannabis and expunging or resentencing cannabis convictions will strengthen communities. This is the right move for Minnesota."
The bill makes sweeping changes authorizing the growth, manufacturing, and lawful sale of cannabis products. Minnesota joins 22 states plus Washington, D.C., where marijuana is legal.
"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," bill co-author Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, said.
Possession for adults 21 and older will be legal starting Aug. 1, with limits. Minnesotans will be permitted to have up to two pounds of marijuana at home and two ounces while in public. Sale of the drug will still be illegal without a state license.
The bill also creates a new regulatory framework to license businesses that would cultivate, manufacture, and sell marijuana at retail dispensaries. There are 12 different business licenses a person can apply for in the adult-use market, and there are additional licenses for medical cannabis.
Stephenson told WCCO he anticipates it will be 12 to 18 months before someone can go into a store and purchase new, regulated marijuana products.
"It's going take us a bit of time to get this up and going. We'll be getting some people into the positions to be able to run this," Walz said. "But I assure Minnesotans that a lot of thought has gone into this. A lot of the things learned in other states are incorporated into how we do this and the thoughtfulness around this legislation gives us a really good guiding principle."
Under the new law, non-felony cannabis offenses will be automatically expunged and a board will be established to review more serious crimes involving cannabis. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension on Aug. 1 will start the process of automatically clearing records, according to the bill.
Former Gov. Jesse Ventura, who has been pushing for the legalization of cannabis for more than two decades, was also present at Tuesday's bill signing.
"I was a spark that brought a thought to the table," he said. "And it took many years of diligent work by legislators, governors, Gov. Walz especially to reach this point today."
Ventura said education has shifted the conversation around marijuana legalization, particularly in Minnesota.
"The people of Minnesota, especially, have been educated now and they understand that cannabis – all drugs and all forms of things have an upside and a downside to them – but cannabis' upside is so much, much more and good than any downside," he said.
Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug, not legal at the federal level.