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What to know as recreational marijuana becomes legal in Minnesota on Aug. 1

Marijuana
Posted at 4:48 PM, Jul 28, 2023

MINNESOTA — Minnesotans can legally possess and grow their own marijuana for recreational purposes starting Tuesday, Aug. 1, subject to limits meant to keep a lid on things while the state sets up a full-blown legal cannabis industry.

The Democratic-controlled Minnesota Legislature approved a massive legalization bill and Democrat Gov. Tim Walz signed it in May.

At least one Minnesota tribe plans to take advantage of its sovereignty and allow sales right away. But the state projects most legal retail sales won’t begin until early 2025, while it creates as licensing and regulatory system for the new industry.

Legalization followed a debate between critics who fear for the impacts on public safety and young people, and supporters who argue that prohibition of the drug had failed. Backers of the law framed legalization noted that people of color were more likely than whites to be arrested for minor offenses, and to suffer lasting consequences in employment and housing.

Minnesota is the 23rd state to legalize recreational marijuana, more than a decade after Colorado and Washington did so.

It comes as New York struggles to end the illicit trade while failing to quickly license legal shops with a focus on “social equity" and New Mexico punishes retailers for illegally selling weed sourced from California — amid wider gluts and plummeting prices for pot farmers.

Farmers, like members of the public, can't legally move cannabis across state lines amid the ongoing federal ban.

Here’s a look at what will and won’t change in Minnesota as of Aug. 1:

WHAT'S LEGAL

Adults 21 and older can possess and travel in the state with 2 ounces of cannabis flower, 8 grams of concentrate and 800 milligrams worth of THC-containing edible products such as gummies and seltzers. They can have up to 2 pounds of cannabis flower at home.

Low-potency edibles made with THC from industrial hemp were legalized last year. They've been subject to a 10% marijuana tax since July 1.

That tax will apply to other marijuana products as they become licensed for sales, but not on sovereign tribal lands.

It remains illegal under federal law to bring marijuana in from out of state.

RETAIL WEED

The Red Lake Nation plans to sell recreational marijuana at its existing medical cannabis dispensary starting Aug. 1. But that’s on its remote reservation in northwestern Minnesota. It’s not clear yet if other tribes will follow.

While states like New Mexico managed to legalize and regulate marijuana within a year of legalization, Minnesota will take a bit longer.

Like New York, the Minnesota law gives priority to social equity considerations for awarding licenses. That can mean applicants from low-income areas that have felt disproportionate effects from marijuana being illegal, people whose convictions have been expunged, and military veterans who lost their honorable status due to a marijuana-related offense, to name a few.

That includes a long list of license categories for cannabis-related businesses, with application fees ranging from $250 for delivery services to $10,000 for growers and product manufacturers.

Local governments can’t ban cannabis sales, but they can limit the number of retailers to one per 12,500 residents.

MINNESOTA GROWN

Adults can grow up to eight plants at home, with no more than four flowering at a time. The plants must be grown in an enclosed, locked space that’s not open to public view, whether that's indoors or in a garden.

Retailers can start selling marijuana seeds if they comply with labeling and other requirements set by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

WHERE AND WHERE NOT TO TOKE

Cannabis can be legally consumed on private property, including private homes. Eventually it will be allowed at special events where organizers have permits.

But it's still illegal to smoke or vape cannabis anywhere that tobacco smoking is prohibited, including most businesses, apartment buildings and college campuses. Nothing in the state law prohibits smoking it on a public sidewalk, but local ordinances might.

Cannabis use remains illegal in all forms while driving, in public schools, on school buses, in state prisons, and on federal property. It can't be smoked or vaped where a minor could inhale it.

GUNS AND GANJA

Federal law still bars cannabis consumers from owning firearms or ammunition.

That's despite Second Amendment-friendly provisions in the Minnesota law. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has said that regardless of Minnesota's new law, a “current user” of marijuana is defined as an “unlawful user” for federal purposes. That means people following state law are still prohibited from having guns and ganja.

Gun purchasers must fill out an ATF form saying whether or not they use marijuana. Lying on the form is a felony under federal law.

CLEANING SLATES

Minor marijuana convictions, like possession of small amounts, will began to be automatically expunged starting in August. More than 60,000 Minnesotans could benefit, but the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension says the process could take up to a year to clear everyone's record.

A special Cannabis Expungement Board will be formed to review felony convictions to determine eligibility case by case.

REGULATING IT

The Office of Cannabis Management will oversee the cannabis industry in Minnesota. It's starting to list job positions, with applications for the office’s first executive director open through July 31.

The office will also take over the running of Minnesota’s medical marijuana program, which won't be taxed.

Tribal governments will set their own rules.