Cannabis bill clears Minnesota House, vote expected on Senate floor Friday
UPDATE: The Minnesota House of Representatives passed the recreational cannabis bill Tuesday afternoon.
It came after lawmakers debated the bill late into the night Monday before tabling it just after midnight. They then returned to the floor to debate the bill for a few more hours Tuesday before voting to approve it, 71-59.
The Minnesota Senate is expected to take up its version of the bill on Friday.
The bill would allow adults 21 and older to buy up to 2 ounces of cannabis at a time and cultivate up to eight plants, as long as only four are mature at any given time. Minnesotans could possess 2 ounces in public and 1.5 pounds at home.
Home delivery from licensed cannabis would also be allowed, and prior marijuana convictions would be expunged.
DFL lawmakers — who control both chambers of the Legislature — and Gov. Tim Walz have expressed support for the bill. If the Senate approves the bill, it could then go to the governor to be signed into law.
In a news conference Monday morning, DFL lawmakers said Minnesota is ready to allow marijuana for recreational use, as 21 other states and the District of Columbia have done.
“It’s time Minnesotans deserve the freedom and respect to make responsible decisions about cannabis themselves,” Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids said. “Our current laws are doing more harm than good.”
But Republicans still have their concerns, including the age limit and how much control local governments have.
“I’ll have an amendment on raising the age limit to 25,” Rep. Kristin Robbins, R-Maple Grove, said on Monday. “Because the vast majority of the studies show that the brain continues to develop and that the effects for people under age 25 are more long-lasting and more severe.”
Robbins’ amendment failed on the House floor Monday night.
There was also concern among GOP lawmakers that the bill favors giving vendor licenses to applicants who score well in “social equity” rather than who has the best business plan.
Stephenson, who authored the bill, acknowledged the legislation favors people of color who have been disproportionately targeted for enforcement during marijuana’s prohibition.
“The overall focus of this bill is trying to make sure the people who have been harmed the most by the previous prohibition regime benefit the most from the new regime,” he said.
A recent KSTP/SurveyUSA poll found 58% of Minnesotans surveyed support full legalization of recreational marijuana, 26% want it to remain against the law and 15% weren’t sure.
Follow other major bills through the 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Legislative Tracker.