Yesterday, Governor Walz signed the bill legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use in Minnesota. Since 1939, possession of marijuana for recreational purposes has been against the law here in the gopher state. The law signed yesterday begins the process of full legalization. But many questions remain. (The entire bill is over 300 pages long and makes for rather dry reading, so I’m still working my way through it. Below are some of the highlights so far).
What we do know is this – effective August 1, 2023, it is no longer against the law for adults (age 21+) to possess marijuana in Minnesota. There are still limitations as to how much a person can have, but they’re pretty lax – up to 2 pounds of marijuana flower (though only 2 ounces in public), 800 grams of edibles, and up to 8 grams of THC concentrate. The new law also allows people to grow marijuana plants at home, though again with some limitations (8 plants total, with no more than 4 flowering at one time).
What we don’t yet know is what sales of marijuana products will look like in the future, or even when exactly they will take place. The new law establishes several new government entities to oversee this process, and many decisions will be made by those groups. It appears that the new Cannabis Advisory Council will be tasked with overseeing this process. The Council is made up of a diverse group of (by my count) 51 people, including representatives from tribal governments, law enforcement, medical professionals, substance use disorder professionals, agricultural experts, experts in minority and female owned businesses, and more. The law also requires numerous studies to evaluate how Minnesota’s implementation of this new law is working.
Finally, the new law also includes provisions allowing for expungement of prior marijuana-related convictions, even going so far as to automatically expunge certain offenses. The automatic expungement provision applies primarily to low level marijuana offenses – simple possession and possession in a motor vehicle, as well as cases that were dismissed or otherwise resolved in the defendant’s favor. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will be responsible for identifying those cases eligible for automatic expungement.
This is a major change in Minnesota law, and will no doubt have numerous trickle-down effects on Minnesota’s criminal justice system.