Minnesota’s Proposed Marijuana Law Sees Major Changes
On Tuesday, new language was added to Minnesota’s bill to legalize recreational marijuana for adults. This was done to regulate and protect the state’s growing industry of low-potency edibles and drinks.
Since last year, it has been legal in Minnesota to sell low-potency THC products that are made from industrial hemp instead of full-strength cannabis. But the law that legalized them was passed quietly, and many lawmakers don’t seem to know what it does. It doesn’t give much of a plan for regulating products like gummies and seltzers with doses of THC capped at 5 milligrams.
When the bill was in the State and Local Government Committee on Tuesday, the hemp provisions were added to the version going through the Senate. When the bill goes back to the Commerce Committee next week, a similar change will be made to the House version, said the bill’s main author and committee chair, Democratic Rep. Zack Stephenson of Coon Rapids.
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The other lead author, Democratic Sen. Lindsey Port of Burnsville, told the state and local government panel, “The prohibition of cannabis is a failed system that has not achieved the desired goals.” “It has cost our communities a lot, especially communities of color, in ways that are hard to measure.”
Port said that the 142-page amendment passed on Tuesday includes “significant adjustments” to give local governments more control, but they won’t be able to ban all cannabis businesses. This is in response to feedback from stakeholders. She also said that it will make sure that the industrial hemp industry won’t have to deal with extra problems.
Since hemp-based THC products are not illegal at the federal level like marijuana is, companies that make and sell them have access to capital and banking, and their business expenses are tax-deductible. But they were worried that the bill’s original wording would hurt their market niche by putting them in the same group as businesses that were just legalized to sell cannabis.
The bills to legalize marijuana in the House and Senate have already been through more than 20 committees, but they still have to get through a few more before they can be voted on in the floor. Legalization is likely to pass the House, which passed a similar bill last year. However, it is still unclear if supporters can get enough votes to pass it in the Senate, where Democrats only have a one-seat majority. Tim Walz, who is a Democrat, supports legalization.
Stephenson told reporters that he feels “really, really good” about getting the bill passed into law this year, even though the 2023 session has been very busy. He said that as the bill has gone through the hearing process, it has become much better than it was when it was first introduced.
Stephenson said, “Things are going as well as we could have hoped.” “I think the bill has a lot of support in my caucus, and I think we’ll get some Republican support when we get to the floor.”
Some big changes are still to come, like updating the language after a financial analysis is done to find a “sweet spot” where license fees for cannabis businesses aren’t so low that they get flooded with applications, but aren’t so high that they make it hard for people without money to start a business either.
Stephenson said, “It looks like the big changes to the bill are coming to an end.” “There will probably be a few more changes in terms of money, but as far as policy goes, we’re probably getting close to a finished product.”
Leili Fatehi, who runs the campaign for the pro-legalization MN is Ready coalition, told reporters that she’s sure she can get the votes she needs, and she’s even hopeful that some Republicans in the Senate will support her. But she said that, so far, their main goal has been to fix the bill so that, if it passes, the rules will work as they should.