The governor of Minnesota says that tribal government could possibly get a head start selling marijuana for the adult-use market within the state’s borders before private businesses are approved by regulators.
While it’s expected to take more than a year for the state’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) to start licensing conventional cannabis shops under the legalization law he signed last week, Gov. Tim Walz (D) said that Indian tribes in the state could begin operating sooner.
“I have toured the facility up in White Earth. It is a world class operation,” he told Fox affiliate KMSP-TV, referring to the White Earth Nation band. “They have thought deeply about this.”
Walz signed a bill to legalize cannabis last week, and while possession and home cultivation will become lawful in August, lawmakers have projected that it will take 12-18 months before regulators start issuing recreational marijuana business licenses. It’s not clear how quickly native tribes could start selling cannabis to adult consumers, but the governor is suggesting that they could be first in line to start marketing their products.
He also pointed out that the state promptly launched a website that serves as a hub for information about the new law after the bill passed the legislature, signaling the state’s interest in expeditiously standing up the industry.
“All the background is there, so it is going to just naturally take some time to put it in,” he said, adding that the “issue here is is we get some regulation over it,” and he’s “deeply concerned about this stuff that’s coming off the streets that’s laced with fentanyl or xylazine or whatever it might be.”
The now-enacted legislation allows the governor or a designee to negotiate compacts with tribes that wish to work with the state on coordinating marijuana regulations, but it also says that the state “acknowledges the sovereign right of Minnesota Tribal governments to regulate the cannabis industry and address other matters of cannabis regulation related to the internal affairs of Minnesota Tribal governments or otherwise within their jurisdiction, without regard to whether such Tribal government has entered a compact.”
“Indian Tribes are not required to enter into compacts pursuant to this section in order to: regulate the cannabis industry, or engage in cannabis businesses or activities on Tribally regulated lands; or participate as a licensee in the state’s legal cannabis market,” it says.
That language seems to support the idea that tribal governments would not need to wait for approval by OCM, which won’t even be officially established until July 1.
Meanwhile, even before Walz signed the bill, officials had already started soliciting vendors to help build a licensing system for recreational marijuana businesses.
Democratic-Farmer-Labor legislators are pointing to the achievement on cannabis reform as a direct result of voters putting the party in the majority in both chambers after last year’s election.
The legislation that advanced through both chambers is an iteration of the 2021 House-passed bill from former Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D), who now serves as campaign chairman of the advocacy coalition MN is Ready.
As of August 1, adults 21 and older will be able to possess in public up to two ounces of cannabis and they will be allowed to cultivate up to eight plants at home, four of which can be mature. People can possess up to two pounds of marijuana in their residences.
Gifting up to two ounces of marijuana without remuneration between adults will be permitted.
It’s expected to take 12-18 months for licenses to be issued and regulated sales to start. As of March 1, 2025, existing medical cannabis businesses can receive new combination licenses that would allow them to participate in the adult-use market.
Certain marijuana misdemeanor records will also be automatically expunged, with implementation beginning in August. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will be responsible for identifying people who are eligible for relief to the courts, which will process the expungements. A newly created Cannabis Expungement Board will also consider felony cannabis offenses for relief, including potential sentence reductions for those still incarcerated.
In addition to creating a system of licensed cannabis businesses, municipalities and counties can own and operate government dispensaries.
On-site consumption permits can be approved for events, and cannabis delivery services will be permitted under the bill.
Local governments will not be allowed to prohibit marijuana businesses from operating in their areas, though they can set “reasonable” regulations on the time of operation and location while also limiting the number of cannabis business licenses based on population size.
There will be a gross receipts tax on cannabis sales in the amount of 10 percent, which will be applied in addition to the state’s standard 6.875 percent sales tax.
Eighty percent of revenue will go into the state’s general fund—with some monies earmarked for grants to help cannabis businesses, fund substance misuse treatment efforts and other programs—and 20 percent will go to local governments.
OCM will be established in July, and it will be responsible for regulating the market and issuing cannabis business licenses. There will be a designated Division of Social Equity.
The legislation will promote social equity, in part by ensuring diverse licensing by scoring equity applicants higher. People living in low-income neighborhoods and military veterans who lost honorable status due to a cannabis-related offense will be considered social equity applicants eligible for priority licensing. People convicted of cannabis offenses, or who have an immediate family member with such a conviction, will also qualify.
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A poll released last month found that 64 percent of Minnesota registered voters support creating a regulated marijuana market, including 81 percent of Democrats and a 49 percent plurality of Republicans.
Two polls released in September found that the majority of Minnesota residents support adult-use marijuana legalization—and one survey showed that even more Minnesotans approve of the state’s move to legalize THC-infused edibles that was enacted last year.
A survey conducted by officials with the House at the annual State Fair that was released in September also found majority support for legalization. That legislature-run poll found that 61 percent of Minnesotans back legalizing cannabis for adult use.
Meanwhile, the governor also recently signed a pair of large-scale bills that include provisions to establish safe drug consumption sites and also create a psychedelics task force meant to prepare the state for possible legalization.
Further, he signed legislation last month that includes provisions to legalize drug paraphernalia possession, syringe services, residue and testing.