In order to ensure that legislation would be fair to people who have suffered the most as a result of the state’s prohibition of cannabis, supporters of legalizing recreational marijuana in Minnesota asked lawmakers to take bold actions on Wednesday. The House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee passed a massive 300-page bill on a party-line voice vote after it underwent the first of what is anticipated to be many hearings in the state Capitol this year.
Although the legislation’s sponsors list social fairness as one of their key objectives, stakeholders believe it should go even further. In public testimony, Nathan Ratner of The Great Rise, a regional alliance of hemp and CBD companies promoting justice in a legal Marijuana program, said, “I challenge you today to build the fairest cannabis law in the country.”
It is anticipated that parliamentarians will complete the bill before the Legislature adjourns for the year in May now that the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party is in control of both the House and the Senate. Tim Walz, the governor, has declared that he would sign such a bill into law. When he delivers his budget proposal later this month, Tim Walz is anticipated to include funding for a state marijuana program.
The House plan already includes a number of social equality provisions and would establish a new state agency to oversee the marijuana market. The agency would have a Division of Social Equity that would give “social equity applicants” priority when applying for licenses to operate in the program.
According to the bill, social equity applicants are low-income residents, those who reside in locations where cannabis laws are enforced “disproportionately heavily,” and veterans who “lost honorable status due to a cannabis-related violation.” All Marijuana-related crimes and minor misdemeanors would be automatically removed from anyone’s criminal record under the proposed legislation.
It would establish an expungement board to evaluate expunging marijuana-related crimes and gross misdemeanors on an individual basis. According to state statistics, Black Minnesotans are five times more likely to be arrested for a marijuana-related violation than White Minnesotans. Social equity was made one of the main goals of the legislation as a result of these inequities, according to state Representative Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, who is also the bill’s primary sponsor.
According to Stephenson, when we establish a new market, “our purpose with this law is to prioritize folks who have been affected by prohibition, and to prioritize small and local [companies] above big and global.” Nevertheless, a few speakers during the public comment period argued that the bill should go much further.
Ratner demanded that the new Office of Cannabis Management award applicants for social equity 60 percent of the state’s marijuana licenses. According to him, New York sets an example for the nation by giving social justice applicants priority for half of its Marijuana licenses. Ratner proclaimed, “I challenge you to defeat New York.”
Ratner’s plan is one that Stephenson said may be discussed, but he would not expressly declare his support for it. A local hemp and CBD company’s lobbyist, Marcus Harcus, described the bill’s provisions as “prohibition-lite.” The bill prohibits those who have been convicted of felonies within the last five years from applying for marijuana licenses.
According to Harcus, he is worried about the individuals now engaged in the criminal marijuana market who will be prohibited from entering the legal market as a result of this clause. According to Harcus, “there might be a mechanism to appeal and be reviewed, but that’s probably going to discourage some fine people from crossing over.” Stephenson stated that he is receptive to Harcus’s amendments to this section of the bill.
The prohibitions he is mentioning should be examined to see if they are actually required and if they serve any legitimate public policy goals. If not, Stephenson suggested that they be removed. One aspect of the measure that received cautious appreciation from Harcus was the lack of an annual renewal charge for a license to sell marijuana products after the initial $250 application fee.
According to Harcus, this clause might give low-income business owners reasonable access to licenses. But throughout the discussion, one lawmaker criticized that point. The creation of the new state marijuana office was referred to as “a tremendous appropriation” by state representative Anne Nue Brindley, R-North Branch, who also expressed worry that it is presently uncertain how much money the office will generate for the state.
The absence of renewal costs was characterized by Nue Brindley as a “very unique and a very bizarre carve-out.” “I don’t understand why we would do it,” During the public comment period, St. Louis Park defense lawyer Calandra Revering expressed her worry about the lack of access to finance for people of color who want to start businesses selling hemp, CBD, and marijuana.
She claimed to have direct knowledge of it after investigating her own entry into the field for the previous four years. The approach frequently benefits wealthier individuals, such as white men, and not individuals like me, claimed Revering. I think Minnesota has a chance to set the bar high by legalizing these enterprises.
In an interview with Sahan Journal, Stephenson identified one initiative that would assist people in this scenario as the start-up incentives in the law that would be given to social equity applicants for marijuana licenses. According to Stephenson, the bill will probably go to a further dozen House committees where it must be approved before being put to a vote by the entire House.
The Senate, where a comparable companion bill has been introduced, is likely to follow suit. However, Stephenson expressed his “very optimistic” that the governor will receive it this year. He stated, “I’m having wonderful discussions with other members, and I’m hoping that we’ll get it done.”