Minnesota House casts final vote to legalize recreational marijuana

Minnesota is only one Senate vote away from legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use. The governor must also sign the bill.

On Thursday night, the DFL-controlled House passed a bill legalizing marijuana 73-57. The Senate may take up the bill on Friday. The bill, pending Senate approval, will be sent to the Democratic governor’s desk. Tim Walz has pledged to sign the bill.

The day has finally come. “Today is the last day we will vote in the House to legalize marijuana and bring about the change many Minnesotans long wanted,” said Zack Stephenson of Coon Rapids, a Democrat state representative who sponsored the legislation.

The bill allows Minnesotans over 21 to purchase up to two ounces cannabis flower, eight grams of concentrate, and 800 milligrams of edible products, at one time. They can also possess these amounts in public.


Adults could also grow up to 8 cannabis plants at home. However, no more than 4 of these can be fully matured and flowering.

If the bill passes the Senate and is signed by Walz, Minnesota will become the 23rd State in the nation to legalize recreational cannabis. Stephenson noted that Minnesota would only be the 11th State to allow home-growing.

The bill to legalize marijuana was finalized by legislative negotiators earlier this week. The bill set the tax on cannabis products at 10% and capped the amount of marijuana flower that can be kept at home at 2 pounds. Cities could limit the number of cannabis retail outlets within their borders.

Rep. Nolan West (R-Blaine) said that he was pleased with the fact that cities now have the authority to limit the number cannabis retailers. He also praised Stephenson’s inclusion of Republicans in the conference committee which finalized the marijuana law.

West, a supporter of the measure, said that “while it’s still not a perfect bill, it has improved significantly since it first left the House.”

However, there was still a lot of Republican opposition. GOP lawmakers expressed concerns about a possible increase in impaired driving, and teenage marijuana use.

Rep. Jeff Backer (R-Browns Valley) took issue with a provision that allows people to have 2 pounds of marijuana flowers in their home. Minnesota’s proposed limit of 2 pounds is an anomaly among states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

“Folks, that’s 2,724 joints. Backer, a voter against the measure, said that the children would get their hands on it. “If we don’t protect our children, why are we even here?”

It could be a year before the first retail dispensary is opened if legalization occurs. The bill creates the Office of Cannabis Management to oversee licensing of medical and recreational marijuana, and hemp-derived products.

Stephenson stated that the state will begin establishing this agency in late 2019. Some aspects of the bill will take effect earlier.

Stephenson announced that marijuana possession will be decriminalized, and home-growing will become legal as of Aug. 1. In August, the state will also begin working to remove past marijuana convictions.

The bill would clear all misdemeanor cannabis convictions, and create a committee that will consider expunging felony cannabis crimes. Last week, the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension wrote to legislators to explain that it may take up to one year for the agency to expunge misdemeanor convictions.

Athena Hollins (DFL-St. Paul), state representative, said: “Think of how many people have records and are trying to find housing or jobs. This directly impacts their ability to contribute to our society.” “We will expunge these records because we made a wrong decision in the drug war. We’re now going to correct that mistake.