Minnesota House Leader Introduces Ambitious Legalization Bill

While the likelihood of passage in 2020 is slim to none – the Minnesota Legislature has seen its most comprehensive marijuana legalization bill presented to date. Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D-Golden Valley) is the lead sponsor and 33 other representatives also signed on. The bill, HF4632, follows his well-publicized statewide tour known as “Be Heard on Cannabis.”

Minnesota’s House of Representatives is controlled by Democrats, so the bill will presumably be heard by committees and perhaps make it to the House floor for a vote. However, the Senate remains in GOP hands, and Senate Majority Leader, Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa), is steadfastly opposed to marijuana legalization. A legalization bill was heard in Senate committee last session, yet was voted down 6-3 by committee members.

Nonetheless, this event marks an important milestone in the decades-long fight to end prohibition. To be sure, other bills have been presented in previous sessions, but none as well-thought and hyped as HF4632. Despite the bill’s unlikely passage, there were hopes it could “spark” conversation around legalization. Unfortunately, with COVID-19 on everyone’s mind, the timing is not conducive to engage in a statewide discussion.

The nearly 225 page legislation encompasses the following:

  • Creates an oversight structure via Cannabis Management Board:
    • consists of seven members
    • may hire an executive director
    • can establish a 25 person advisory council
    • will study and report on impacts of legalization
    • will create a statewide monitoring system, approve products for sale, and establish environmental standards
  • Provides for expungement of most cannabis convictions:
    • Article VI establishes a Cannabis Expungement Board to review other more elevated cannabis convictions and weigh other factors such as violence or victims
  • Provides for a limited allowance of home grow
    • ten pounds or less
    • no more than eight plants, only four of which can be flowering
    • also permits up to 1.5 ounces in a public place
  • establishes ten categories of licenses, including
    • cultivator
    • manufacturer
    • retailer
    • wholesaler
    • transporter
    • testing facility
    • microbusiness
    • event organizer
    • delivery
    • medical cannabis
  • Restricts ownership of companies to no more than 25% non-residents
  • Vertical operators are forbidden by permitting licensees from holding licenses in one of six categories; said otherwise, a licensee can’t own a business in two categories
    • the caveat is for the two medical licensees who will be grandfathered in with an exception to the vertical prohibition
  • The medical program would be altered as well, including
    • no enrollment fees
    • allowing smokeable flower
    • establishing an application for veterans
    • allowing possession on school grounds
  • Requires testing and labeling of products
  • Restricts packaging based on dosage size
  • Certain advertising restrictions
  • Provides funding for public health awareness, youth access prevention, and substance abuse addiction and treatment  
  • Provides grants, loans, technical assistance, and training for small businesses
    • CanRenew: grant program focused on low-income neighborhoods
    • CanGrow: for farmers
    • CanStartup: grant program run by DEED for nonprofits to subsidize loans to startups
    • CanNavigate: grant program run by DEED to help businesses navigate regulation and legally setup
    • CanTrain: Run by DEED to give grants to organizations to train people for cannabis jobs
    • CanLearn: run by Dept. of Labor to create apprentice opportunities
  • Uses best practices from other states to account for negative externalities by creating a substance abuse council
  • imposes a 10% tax
  • establishes an edibles license

Notably, the bill prevents municipalities from banning legally licensed rec businesses in their jurisdictions. Other states have been fraught with city by city bans, creating a confusing map for consumers and entrepreneurs.

Structurally, the program would be run via a seven person body overseeing the industry, known as the Cannabis Management Board (CMB). Under CMB’s auspice would also include the existing medicinal program, as well as an office of Social Equity, ensuring that those who have been disproportionally affected by prohibition have a fair chance of flourishing in this new industry.

From a possession standpoint, up to 1.5 ounces could be carried and up to ten pounds could be at home. Growing up to eight cannabis plants (four of which may be flowering) would be permitted.

We’ll keep you updated as this bill moves through the statehouse.

Statement from Majority Leader Winkler