“We made a commitment to introduce legislation this session, and we wanted to follow through on that commitment,” said Majority Leader Winkler. “Our current priority is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, but after the town halls and discussions around this issue, we still wanted to put a strong bill forward. As we look to come out of this crisis as a better, stronger Minnesota, we need to continue working toward legalizing cannabis for responsible adult use.”
The bill includes the following items:
- Creates a regulatory structure focused on developing micro-businesses and a craft market,
- Provides for expungement of most cannabis convictions,
- Provides for a limited allowance of home grow,
- Requires testing and labeling of products,
- Restricts packaging based on dosage size,
- Provides funding for public health awareness, youth access prevention, and substance abuse addiction and treatment,
- Provides grants, loans, technical assistance and training for small business,
- Uses best practices from other states to account for negative externalities.
“Minnesotans have been loud and clear that our current cannabis laws are doing more harm than good,” added Winkler. “By creating a regulatory framework we can address the harms caused by cannabis and establish a more sensible set of laws to improve our health care and criminal justice systems and ensure better outcomes for communities.”
Minnesota lawmakers introduced a bipartisan legalization bill during the 2019 legislative session, but a Senate committee voted to kill the legislation after even its Republican co-author said he wouldn’t vote for it but would instead support more modest decriminalization.
Details may be subject to change as the proposal moves through the legislative process. Legalization remains politically thorny in Minnesota and, regardless of the bill’s comprehensive approach, it’s likely to face a number of hurdles and proposed amendments once lawmakers gather to consider it.
In February, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, when Winkler first teased the legislation, he acknowledged it would be a long road to legalization in Minnesota, saying it was “highly likely that it will take more than one year to get it done.”
The current legislative session ends on May 18.