Legislative Update: Cannabis Bill Passes Minnesota House

cannabis

On Thursday, May 13th, the Minnesota House passed HF 600, a bill which legalizes and regulates adult-use cannabis in Minnesota, while expunging records of people convicted for nonviolent offenses involving cannabis. The bill was passed on a bipartisan vote of 72-61. This marks the first time a legalization bill has been considered by the full House in the state. 

The adult-use cannabis bill would create a regulatory structure focused on developing micro-businesses and a craft market; expunge most cannabis convictions; fund public health awareness, youth access prevention, and substance abuse treatment; provide grants, loans, technical assistance, and training for small businesses; require testing and labeling of products; restrict packaging based on dosage size; and allow limited home grow abilities.

It includes funding for community renewal along with cannabis industry training and start-up funding. The grants would focus on individuals facing barriers to education or​ employment, areas with elevated rates of poverty, workers with less than three years of experience, and farmers. 

As of Nov. 4, 2020, voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota approved measures to regulate cannabis for adult-use, bringing the total to 15 states and 3 territories. A total of 36 states, District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands have approved comprehensive, publicly available medical marijuana/cannabis programs.

“Legal cannabis has proven to be a better alternative to prohibition in state after state. Minnesota has learned from the successes and failures of these states allowing us to create a bill that will be one of the best in the nation,” said Rep. Erin Koegel (Spring Lake Park). “I hope that our colleagues in the Senate recognize the wide ranging benefits that this legislation will bring to every community in our state.”

“I am proud of the bill we passed today, it has come to fruition after years of hard work and careful planning. I know that by ending the prohibition on adult-use cannabis Minnesota will be able to heal the harm caused by prohibition,” said Rep. Sandra Masin (Eagan), a co-author.

Black and white Minnesotans consume cannabis at very similar rates, yet while Black Minnesotans make up 5 percent of the population they represent 30 percent of cannabis arrests.

“It is past time that Minnesota ends our destructive and costly criminalization of cannabis, a criminalization that has taken a vastly disproportionate toll on communities of color,” said Rep. Liz Boldon (Rochester). “This bill was carefully crafted after years of consulting experts, stakeholders, and community members across the state.”

“Prohibition of cannabis has been a dismal failure.  It has not kept cannabis away from our children and has especially hurt communities of color. The majority of Minnesotans are ready for a safe, legal way for adults to obtain cannabis for personal use, and this bill offers a new approach that recognizes the damage prohibition has caused,” said Rep. Tina Liebling (Rochester). 

“Minnesota’s current cannabis policy is doing more harm than good,” said Rep. Liz Olson (Duluth), the House Deputy Majority Leader. “This legislation recognizes the growing support among Minnesotans for legal adult-use cannabis to improve equity, create economic opportunity, and improve our criminal justice system.”

“House DFLers have taken the time to assemble a bill that delivers the type of cannabis policy Minnesotans are asking for, centered in racial equity, personal freedom, and the health of Minnesotans,” said Rep. Jen Schultz (Duluth). “Significantly, the bill also improves upon our medical cannabis program, permitting flower to be used, allowing more Minnesotans to realize health benefits from cannabis.”

“The Minnesota House took historic action to legalize cannabis for adult use,” said Rep. Laurie Pryor (Minnetonka). “This comprehensive measure will help address criminal inequities, help our veterans dealing with PTSD and create a regulated market, making all communities safer.”

“Legalizing adult-use cannabis is the right thing to do,” said Rep. Alice Hausman (Saint Paul). “By creating a regulatory framework, we can address the harms caused by cannabis and at the same time establish reasonable laws to ensure better outcomes for everyone, especially communities of color who have faced the harshest penalties.”

House File 600 received approval from 12 House committees, including the committees on Commerce; Labor, Industry, Veterans and Military Affairs; Business and Workforce Development; Agriculture; Environment and Natural Resources; Judiciary and Civil Law; State Government; Education Finance; Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform; Health; Taxes; and Ways and Means.

If passed by the Minnesota Senate before the Legislature’s May 17th constitutional adjournment deadline, the bill could be signed into law.

Polling shows Minnesotans support legalizing cannabis. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has said the Republican caucus is strongly opposed. The Senate has blocked public discussion on adult-use cannabis proposals, but there is still time to allow senators to vote.

Video recording of the floor session will be made available on the House Public Information YouTube channel.