Five changes to cannabis law are under consideration by the Minnesota Legislature

Five changes to cannabis law are under consideration by the Minnesota Legislature

Minnesota lawmakers are considering making several changes to the state’s cannabis laws ahead of the expected launch of the recreational marijuana market in 2025.

The changes range from limiting the number of retail dispensaries in the state to allowing medical cannabis patients to grow twice as many marijuana plants as other adults.

Here’s a look at five proposals:

Social justice changes

Most aspiring cannabis business owners won’t be able to obtain a license until early next year. But social equity applicants — people who were directly or indirectly harmed by previous criminal enforcement of marijuana laws — could obtain a temporary business license as early as this summer under a bill backed by the state Office of Cannabis Management, which would administer​​ Licenses.

Social justice applicants who are granted a provisional license can do the preliminary work to establish their business, such as securing property and obtaining local zoning approval. They can’t start work until the Bureau of Cannabis Management sets rules for the industry, likely early next year.

Ordinary applicants will not be able to apply for a license until the rules are in place.

Another change may affect how licenses are granted. Minnesota’s marijuana law currently uses a points-based scoring system to determine who gets licenses, but regulators want to change it to a random lottery of qualified applicants.

Putting an end to the cannabis business

Regulators are asking the Legislature to cap the number of cannabis business licenses that can be issued in the first two years of the market. Such limits would help regulators assess market demand, Charlene Brenner, interim director of the Office of Cannabis Administration, said at a recent press conference.

The Office of Cannabis could issue no more than 200 licenses to retailers, 50 licenses to growers, 44 licenses to “mezzobusiness” and 24 licenses to manufacturers, according to the OCM-backed bill. Half of these licenses will be reserved for social justice applicants while the other half will be available to everyone.

Hemp businesses are allowed to grow up to 15,000 square feet of hemp, as well as manufacture and sell hemp products.

The bill does not put a cap on “small business” licenses. Small businesses can grow up to 5,000 square feet, manufacturing and selling cannabis products in one location. They may also allow for on-site consumption and live entertainment.

Medical home cultivation

Minnesota’s recreational marijuana law allows adults 21 or older to grow up to eight cannabis plants at home. A bill sponsored by DFL Rep. Jess Hanson would allow patients enrolled in the state’s medical cannabis program to grow up to 16 plants on their own residences.

Medical cannabis patients who need help growing can hire a caregiver to grow plants for them. Caregivers will be required to register with the state and undergo a criminal background check every two years.

A person cannot be a registered caregiver for “more than six registered patients at any one time,” according to Hanson’s bill.

“For each patient family for whom a registered designated caregiver has been approved to assist with medical cannabis flower, the registered designated caregiver may grow up to 16 cannabis plants,” the bill states.

This means that a single caregiver who grows cannabis for six patients can grow up to 96 plants.

Tribal dispensaries can resell other products

Another bill sponsored by Hanson would create a pilot project that would allow licensed medical cannabis manufacturers in the state to sell their products wholesale to tribal nations for resale.

Tribal cannabis dispensaries can resell manufacturers’ products until March 2025, according to the bill.

Tribes in Minnesota have sovereignty over their own cannabis laws and thus have been a first mover in the state’s emerging recreational marijuana market. The Red Lake and White Earth Ojibwe Bands opened recreational dispensaries on tribal lands last year, and the Prairie Island Indian Community plans to open a dispensary this summer near the Treasure Island Casino in Goodhue County.

More oversight of hemp-derived products

Lawmakers are seeking to give the Bureau of Cannabis Management regulatory authority over the retail cannabis market starting this summer. Under current law, the office will not oversee the hemp-derived cannabinoid market until 2025.

The state Department of Health currently has the authority to inspect hemp-derived cannabis products and companies for compliance with dosage limits, testing requirements, and labeling laws.

The Bureau of Cannabis Management recently announced that it is working with the Department of Health to crack down on retailers selling illegal cannabis flower under the label of less potent cannabis.

Staff writer Matt DeLong contributed to this report.

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