Legalization could take place this year, according to legislators, with Democrats in control of both the House and the Senate. Democratic lawmakers introduced their proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Minnesota on Thursday, kicking off months of discussion on a topic that might become law this year.
The proposal, which was unveiled on the third day of the 2023 legislative session, is the most significant effort yet to legalize Marijuana in Minnesota. Republicans’ majority in the Senate is no longer an obstacle for Democrats, who now hold control of the state House and the governor’s office.
State Senator Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville, who is the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, stated, “The Senate is committed to making sure that we correct this mistake.” “The prohibition of cannabis in Minnesota has caused more harm than benefit. It’s time for us to alter that.”
Rep. Zack Stephenson, a Coon Rapids DFLer and the bill’s House sponsor, continued, “I think 2023 will be the year Minnesota legalizes adult-use marijuana.” Marijuana is now legal for recreational use in 21 states. The House scheduled the Commerce committee’s first open hearing for January 11th.
According to Port, the Senate’s first hearing might take place in the following two weeks. But don’t anticipate a speedy transit. The roughly 250-page law has to be reviewed and discussed by multiple committees, according to DFL House and Senate leaders.
Furthermore, if no Republicans support the bill, the entire Democratic caucus must come together to do so because they control a one-seat Senate majority. It would “be a matter of months, not years,” according to Stephenson, before Minnesotans 21 and older could legally purchase and use marijuana flowers and products.
Opponents of legalization said that they don’t think it will pass and that they’ve spoken to lawmakers who have serious reservations about how it would affect workplace and road safety. Ryan Hamilton, a lobbyist for the Minnesota Catholic Conference, stated on Tuesday during a news conference held by Minnesotans Against Marijuana Legalization that “Minnesota is not ready for legalized cannabis.”
In a statement released on Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, a Republican from East Grand Forks, urged Democrats not to hasten marijuana legalization. Johnson stated, “We need to hear from law enforcement, employers, addiction specialists, teachers, and other people who have reservations about legalizing marijuana.
We are aware that even minor changes to the law in this area can have a significant impact on the market and people’s behaviors. Requests for a response from Lisa Demuth’s spokesperson, the minority leader of the GOP in the House, went unanswered.
With some revisions, the bill introduced on Thursday is similar to the Democratic House’s plan for 2021. New rules for the low-dose THC edible industry, which experienced exponential demand when legislators allowed hemp-derived goods with up to 5 milligrams of THC per serving last year, are among the most significant improvements.
Due to the lack of a licensing system in the edible law from the previous year, the measure would establish one for retailers of Marijuana products and low-dose delicacies. Additionally, the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy would temporarily cede control of the regulation of edibles made from hemp to the Department of Health for a period of one year.
The Office of Cannabis Management, a state agency established by the measure, would thereafter oversee the regulation of the products. That agency would control marijuana use for both medical and recreational purposes.
The amount of THC allowed in conventional edibles is up to 10 milligrams in each serving and 100 milligrams per package, whereas “reduced strength” delicacies are limited to 5 milligrams per serving. Either hemp or marijuana might be used to produce both types.
Products made from cannabis would be subject to an 8% gross receipts tax in addition to sales tax. In order to avoid driving Minnesotans to the illegal market, according to DFL Rep. Aisha Gomez, chairwoman of the House Taxes Committee, lawmakers did not want to impose a tax that was too high.
According to Gomez, “We developed this bill to redress the injustices of prohibition, to get individuals out of the black market and into a regulated market.” Licensed stores would be permitted to sell each consumer up to 800 milligrams worth of edible items, eight grams of cannabis concentrate, and two ounces of cannabis flower.
In public places, Minnesotans 21 and older are permitted to have 2 ounces or less of flower, and 5 pounds or less at home. Additionally, they were permitted to grow up to eight cannabis plants indoors, but only four of those plants could be grown and flowering.
Under the proposed legislation, certain low-level Marijuana offenses would be automatically removed from Minnesotans’ records, while other convictions would be reviewed by a new special board. “Cannabis cannot be legalized without expungement. This is a matter of racial fairness, “added DFL-St. Paul state senator Clare Oumou Verbeten. “We must put an end to the harm done to communities of color.”