The Minnesota House approved a bill on Thursday that would legalize adult-use cannabis in the state – the furthest a cannabis legalization proposal has made it in Minnesota’s Legislature. However, the measure faces difficult odds and major opposition as it advances to the GOP-led Senate.
Minnesota House Approves Cannabis Legalization in Historic Vote
After a lengthy debate on Thursday night, Minnesota lawmakers passed an amended bill with a vote of 72-61 – leading the state one step closer toward full cannabis legalization. The measure, filed by House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D – District 46A), would allow Minnesotans aged 21 and up to possess up to two ounces of marijuana in public places, in addition to clearing away past cannabis-related offenses.
“House File 600 legalizes cannabis for adult use in Minnesota, expunging records related to past cannabis convictions,” Rep. Winkler said before the vote. “It creates a legal marketplace focused on allowing more opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses in Minnesota and creates a pathway for social equity applicants to be part of a growing industry.”
The extensive, 250-page bill moves to establish a Cannabis Management Board and advisory councils that would oversee Minnesota’s legal marijuana market, “providing for the licensing, inspection, and regulation of cannabis businesses.”
A sales tax on cannabis products is also put in place under the legislation, in addition to:
- Expungement of low-level cannabis convictions
- Restrictions on cannabis advertising
- Statewide monitoring system of cannabis products
- Home cultivation of up to eight cannabis plants
- Grants and loan programs for social equity applicants
In the legislation’s text, social equity applicants are defined as individuals that reside in areas that have experienced a “disproportionately large amount of cannabis enforcement.”
“Cannabis prohibition in Minnesota has been a failure,” continued Winkler on the House floor. “The criminal penalties associated with cannabis prohibition have been unfairly applied to communities of color, especially Black Minnesotans.”
According to a report released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), black Minnesotans are 5.4 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white Minnesotans, despite similar usage rates.
“Minnesota continues to vigorously enforce marijuana laws, which disproportionately target Black communities and entangle hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal legal system every year at a tremendous cost,” said Benjamin Feist, the Chief Programs Officer for the ACLU in Minnesota. “As a matter of racial justice and sound public health policy, Minnesota must legalize marijuana, with racial equity as the foundation of the reform.”
Despite the momentum and support behind legalization in Minnesota, many Senate Republicans are already preparing to strike the legislation down.
“Making legalized pot for fun – we just don’t think that’s a good idea,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R – District 9). He and other conservative lawmakers are more in favor of revising the state’s current medical marijuana program, with Gazelka telling reporters that Winkler’s amended bill will go “up in smoke.”
Gazelka’s remarks sit in stark contrast to the effort House lawmakers made to include input from both sides of the political aisle. Early in the floor discussion of the bill, Rep. Winkler said that Democrats aimed to approve, “amended forms of final versions of most of the amendments that have been offered by the Republican side.”
Despite the predicted outcome of the bill in the Senate’s hands, many supporters of legalization in Minnesota remain hopeful.
“These thoughtful efforts will result in probably the most carefully considered cannabis bill in the country,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman (D – District 36B). “It’s responsible and it’s time for us to end prohibition.”
At The Weed Blog, we strive to produce the latest online news resources regarding marijuana. We also review various strains of cannabis or other edible counterparts. We are committed to helping you find valuable information about marijuana on our website. With marijuana laws constantly changing, learn from us what you can do to promote activism in your area. Otherwise, consider these other top-tier articles regarding cannabis: