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Minnesota House passes bill to accelerate cannabis market implementation

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill aimed at speeding the creation of a legal cannabis market in the state. Although cannabis was legalized for personal possession in 2023, no officially licensed businesses currently operate. The bill’s author, Rep. Zach Stephenson (DFL-Coon Rapids), emphasized the need for a rapid transition from an illegal market to a regulated market. He recognized the need for updates to last year’s legalization law based on new insights. Comparing the evolution of cannabis laws to that of alcohol, Stephenson said: “It had been a hundred years since we ended alcohol prohibition, and we were still making changes to our liquor laws, so it’s not surprising that we’re back would come back someday. years later with some changes and clarifications to the historic cannabis legislation we passed.”

A major point of discussion during the discussion of the bill was the introduction of a “lottery system” for licensing. The previous law gave priority to applicants from communities historically disadvantaged by cannabis prohibition. The new bill retains social equity provisions but introduces a pre-approval process for these applicants. Additionally, the bill replaces the merit-based licensing system with two lottery-based systems: one for social equity applicants and another for all other applicants. Republicans proposed changes to allow earlier cultivation to address concerns about meeting demand at the start of the market. Stephenson argued against changing the rules, citing potential confusion and distraction for the Office of Cannabis Management.

The bill also includes a study on the impact of legalization on drug use among youth and advances the pre-approval deadline to expedite licensing. Despite efforts to introduce amendments banning flavored edibles and increasing penalties for underage use, these proposals are not included in the final bill. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.