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Applications open for the 1st Minnesota cannabis business licenses next month. Here's what you need to know.

Some Minnesota businesses can apply for cannabis licenses next month
Some Minnesota businesses can apply for cannabis licenses next month 01:42

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Certain Minnesotans — like veterans and people convicted of cannabis possession before it became legal —can apply next month for the first cannabis business licenses designed to give entrepreneurs a headstart so the legal market is ready to launch in 2025.

The Minnesota Legislature this year signed off on a "preapproval" licensing process for the Office of Cannabis Management, allowing regulators to give the green light to some businesses sooner rather than later to plan accordingly — even as the rulemaking process continues.  

"We want to create an early-mover advantage in support of successfully standing up the cannabis industry," Charlene Briner, interim director of the cannabis office, said in March about the plan. "We believe in the social equity opportunities that the law creates. We also want to give people a chance to actually start doing some of the pre-work that is involved in standing up a very complicated business."

Who can apply for the early, "pre-approved" licenses?

In order to qualify, Minnesotans need to meet the criteria of a "social equity applicant." Those include veterans, farmers just starting their careers in agriculture, residents from neighborhoods with high levels of poverty and people convicted of certain possession or sale of cannabis before lawmakers legalized it last year, among others. 

State regulators will first vet applications to make sure individuals qualify and have provided all information necessary according to statute, including detailed plans for operating the business, employee training, security and overall experience in the industry. 

If applicants clear that pre-screening process, they can apply for that early license. Then there will be a lottery in which licensees who meet the criteria are chosen at random — a provision that sparked fierce debate at the capitol this year.

Nick Rahn, owner of The Warrior's Garden selling hemp-derived THC and CBD products, is among the 327,000 Minnesota veterans who are considered social equity applicants. He is eager to seek a preapproved license and intends to apply this summer.

"Because I'm a veteran, I can apply early, which is great—especially the fact that we're already open and we intend to be a cannabis dispensary. It's going to make me feel a lot better if we get the license early so we can be prepared for January 1, when everything goes into motion."

How many of these licenses are available?

State law caps the number of licenses offered in the pre-approval process:

  • Cannabis microbusiness: 100

  • Cannabis mezzobusiness: 25

  • Cannabis cultivators: 13

  • Cannabis manufacturers: 6

  • Cannabis retailers (dispensaries): 38

  • Cannabis wholesalers: 20

  • Cannabis transporter: 20

  • Cannabis testing: 50

  • Cannabis delivery: 10

Getting a pre-approved license does not mean retail stores could sell marijuana flowers and products any sooner than when rulemaking is completed and the market officially launches next year. Some cultivators can begin growing commercial crops this fall if they get additional approval from local governments and apply with rules already in place for medical cannabis.

When can someone apply for the cannabis business licenses?

The Office of Cannabis Management is accepting applications to screen in order to determine if they qualify as social equity applicants starting June 24, according to a timeline from regulators.

Then the portal to apply for a license preapproval will open July 24 and close Aug. 12. The office will then notify applicants if they were selected.

License applications for the general public who don't meet social equity criteria will open next year. 

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