Bill to speed retail cannabis sales passes House ahead of 4/20 holiday

Bill to speed retail cannabis sales passes House in time ahead of 4/20 holiday

Bill to speed retail cannabis sales passes House in time ahead of 4/20 holiday

For the first time on Saturday, recreational marijuana use was legal in Minnesota on 4/20 — cannabis culture’s unofficial holiday.

Hemp and THC edible businesses hosted events all over the metro, however, they stuck to selling the drinks and edibles that have been legal for a couple of years as the licensing process and regulation for the retail sale of cannabis is still being worked out by state officials.

Minneapolis-based Buds Seed & Supply opened on East Lake Street a few months ago. Co-owners Bobby Arndt and Kortney Widnark capitalized on the cannabis lovers’ holiday.

“We’ve had a ton of traffic here already today,” Arndt said within an hour of opening for the day.

The pair sells drinks, edibles, seeds and growing equipment. One day, they hope to sell cannabis flower too, but eight months after legalization, getting a business license feels far away still, they said.

“It is really tough, especially with like, trying to plan the future of the business,” Arndt reacted.

On Thursday, the Minnesota House passed a bill by DFL Rep. Zack Stephenson in hopes of speeding things up. The bill would allow for the pre-approval of retail licenses as early as this summer so businesses can start preparing for opening day.

“I like the pre-approval option,” Arndt said. “It gives a lot of people that don’t have that capital or those types of resources — you know, if they get pre-approved for a license, they’re able to take those few months, or those six months, to really figure out how they’re going to make the business work.”

Like the existing law, Stephenson’s bill prioritizes social equity applicants or people disproportionately harmed by past cannabis laws.

If there are more applicants than available licenses, then it goes to a randomized lottery.

Critics argued the lottery could allow large-scale out-of-state retailers to unfairly flood the application pool.

“Nobody knows how it’s going to go,” argued Rep. Nolan West (R-Blaine) on Thursday. “We passed a law that now we’re just completely changing. It’s no way to govern.”

“It had been 100 years since we had ended the prohibition on alcohol, and we’re still making changes to our liquor laws. In fact, this body earlier this week passed some changes [to] our state’s liquor laws. And so it’s not surprising that we’d be back a year later,” Rep. Stephenson said in opening remarks.

From a business owner’s perspective, Arndt said you really have to keep on top of what’s happening at the Capitol.

“You really have to, you know, just be able to switch and pivot really quickly. And yeah, we’ll just see what happens,” he concluded.

If the bill is passed, the pre-approved licenses would be temporary.

The state’s new Office of Cannabis Management admitted last month that it likely won’t be ready to issue full-scale licenses in time to launch cannabis sales by early next year, which was the initial goal.

Rep. Stephenson’s bill now heads to the Senate.