Minnesotans could grow their own marijuana plants at home, have the drug delivered to their door and get past convictions expunged from their record if the Legislature passes Democrats' recreational cannabis bill this year.
While the bill must be reviewed by numerous committees and will likely be revised repeatedly, the initial proposal from House DFLers (and an identical bill in the Senate) covers a lot of ground, from social justice and hemp-related regulations to drug tests and adolescent education.
The Star Tribune reviewed the nearly 250-page bill with an eye to answering questions readers asked about marijuana in Minnesota in recent months.
Some questions — such as when the legal marketplace would officially open, how much tax revenue the industry would generate and how much products might cost — can't be definitively answered yet. But if the bill passes in its current form, here are a few things that would happen:
Possession and use
Minnesotans 21 and older could buy up to two ounces of cannabis flower, eight grams of cannabis concentrate and 800 milligrams worth of edible products at a time. Those buying cannabis products would have to pay a special 8% tax in addition to regular sales tax.
Those limits would also apply to possession in public spaces. At home, however, adults could possess up to five pounds of cannabis flower. They also could grow up to eight cannabis plants in their private residence, but no more than four could be mature and flowering at a time.
Smoking and edible consumption would be allowed only at home, on private property and on the premises of a business or event licensed for on-site consumption of marijuana products.
Expungement and social justice
For the roughly 60,000 Minnesotans with low-level marijuana convictions, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension would work to automatically seal all related records of arrests, trials, convictions and sentences.
People with marijuana-related felonies could see their cases go before the five-member Cannabis Expungement Board, which could decide whether to expunge a case or resentence to a lower-level offense depending on a variety of factors, including any use of weapons or violence.
Other social justice initiatives in the bill include directing cannabis tax revenue toward community-building grants in areas disproportionately affected by marijuana prohibition. A "social equity applicant" measure would give people from disadvantaged backgrounds a better shot at getting a cannabis business license.
Licenses for growers, processors, sellers and others
A new state agency, the Office of Cannabis Management, would have discretion over how many licenses the state allows for growers, processors, retailers and other cannabis businesses — and who gets those licenses through an application process. The office's mission would be to ensure an adequate supply of marijuana products and to "promote a craft industry."
The state's cannabis industry advocates have raised concerns that large, out-of-state companies would put small growers and operators out of business. The bill allows only "microbusinesses," those with a limited number of plants, to hold all three key licenses: grower, processor and retailer. They would get priority in the application process.
In all, the office would oversee 13 different licenses, including those covering cannabis delivery services, on-site consumption, low-dose edibles and medical marijuana.
Drug tests and employee protections
For many jobs, employers would no longer be allowed to test for cannabis as a condition of employment or subject employees to random tests targeting THC, the cannabis ingredient that causes a high. Employers could still have policies about on-site and on-the-clock use, and drug tests may be conducted in the case of an accident or suspected use on company time or property.
Several professions that interact closely with the public — police, firefighters, teachers, medical professionals and others — are excluded, meaning cannabis testing could still be required on an ongoing basis and as a condition of employment. Truck drivers and other federally regulated jobs would also remain subject to testing requirements spelled out in federal law.
The legislation would require Minnesota's public safety commissioner to launch an "oral fluid roadside test" pilot program to determine whether a driver is impaired by an intoxicating drug. Unlike with alcohol, there is no easy method of determining whether someone is intoxicated with THC, because the drug can remain detectable for weeks after use.
The pilot program would help the state gauge how many impaired drivers are on the roads and evaluate whether a roadside test works, according to the bill. The fluid tests gathered in the pilot program could not be used in court.
State regulators would be charged with recommending funding for police departments to hire more drug recognition experts, who can identify which drug impaired a driver.
The bill would establish penalties for using cannabis while driving, selling to minors, selling without a license and possessing or growing more marijuana than is allowed. Cities could pass ordinances making cannabis use in public places a petty misdemeanor.
'Lower potency edibles' — think 3.2 beer
The low-dose, hemp-derived THC edibles legalized last year would be here to stay. The recreational marijuana proposal would rebrand the products — which contain up to five milligrams of THC per serving and 50 milligrams per package — as "lower potency edibles." They could be derived from either hemp or marijuana.
Categorized separately from regular marijuana edibles, which could contain twice as much THC, the lower potency products would have their own licensing system. Licensed bars and breweries could serve THC-infused drinks, as some do now. Liquor stores also could sell the lower potency products if licensed. So could grocery and convenience stores, as long as they keep the products behind the checkout counter and ID buyers.
Education and prevention
The bill would set aside millions from the state's general fund to set up mandatory middle school and high school drug education, which parents could exempt their kids from. A district's program would need to be in place by the 2026-27 school year and focus on "the health effects on children and adolescents of cannabis use." The state Department of Health would get funding to educate pregnant and breastfeeding women about cannabis usage.
The measure also budgets $36 million over four years for substance use disorder treatment and prevention grants.
Medical cannabis market opens up
For years, only two companies have been allowed to grow, process and sell medical marijuana in Minnesota. This bill would allow anyone to apply for those licenses.
Newly licensed medical cannabis growers could also hold a processor license, and vice versa, but neither could also sell retail products.
Retailers licensed to sell medical marijuana could also hold licenses for recreational product sales, cannabis delivery services and event organizing. Retailers of both medical and recreational marijuana products could sell them on the same premises, but the two product lines would have to be kept in separate areas of a store with distinct entrances.