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Recreational marijuana is now signed into law: Here's what the new law will do

Your burning cannabis questions answered
Your burning cannabis questions answered 02:10

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Legislature this session approved a 300-page bill that will allow adults 21 and older to use recreational marijuana and transform a black market into regulated, state-licensed businesses throughout the state.

Gov. Tim Walz signed it into law Tuesday afternoon, following an early morning vote in the Senate earlier in May.

The bill makes sweeping changes authorizing the growth, manufacturing, and lawful sale of cannabis products. Minnesota would join 22 states plus Washington, D.C., where marijuana is legal.

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about the bill: 

When will recreational use be legal?

Possession for adults 21 and older will be lawful starting Aug. 1 with limits. It will no longer be a crime for Minnesotans to have up to two pounds of marijuana at their home and transport two ounces while in public.

But it would still be illegal to sell it without a state license, and you could face criminal penalties and civil fines for doing so or if you possess more than the amount the legislation authorizes.

Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug, not legal at the federal level.

Would I be able to grow cannabis in my home?

Yes. The bill authorizes growing up to eight flowering plants—with no more than four being mature—at a single residence without a state license.

How soon will I be able to buy marijuana in the state?

The bill creates a new regulatory framework to license businesses that would cultivate, manufacture, and sell marijuana at retail dispensaries. A new state Office of Cannabis Management is tasked with oversight, but it will take time to get it up and running.

Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, who is a co-author of the bill, told WCCO he anticipates it will be 12 to 18 months before someone can go into a store and purchase new, regulated marijuana products.

Who can operate a cannabis business and how can I apply?

There are 12 different business licenses a person can apply for in the adult-use market, and there are additional licenses for medical cannabis.

To be eligible to operate a business, you need to be at least 21 years old and fill out all necessary paperwork and pay license fees. It's not cheap – a cultivator license, for example, will cost $10,000 to apply, $20,000 for the initial license, and $30,000 to renew.

Costs vary depending on the operation. Smaller businesses seeking a cannabis "microbusiness" license would pay less.

There are some limits on who is allowed: You can't be a police officer or work for the state office regulating the industry, among other rules.

State officials will "score" applications and consider several factors when reviewing them, including proposed business plans, security details, experience working in related industries and more.

Bill authors say a key goal of the legislation is righting the wrongs of prohibition that have disproportionately impacted certain communities. Minnesota ranks 8th in the country for largest racial disparities when it comes to marijuana arrests, according to a ACLU report.

People convicted of cannabis possession or are residents of neighborhoods with high poverty levels are among those considered "social equity applicants," whose status will boost their score. There are also grants for communities most impacted by previous laws.

"The war on drugs has had devastating harmful effects on our communities," said Sen. Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville. "I am incredibly proud that this bill has the 'CanRenew' portion of it that re-invests in communities that have been directly harmed by prohibition. It is a critical part of this bill."

If I have a cannabis conviction, will it be cleared?

There is automatic expungement of non-felony cannabis offenses, but the bill establishes a board to review more serious crimes involving marijuana. Members of that panel—which will include chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, attorney general, a public defender and more—will consider expungement or resentencing of felony-level convictions.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension on Aug. 1 will start the process of automatically clearing records, according to the bill.

Can I have marijuana in my car while driving – or will I get a DWI?

Yes, you can have it in your car if it's unopened in the package it came in. But don't take a THC edible or smoke a joint and get behind the wheel. Or if you're a passenger.

A person is not allowed to drive under the influence of marijuana or lower dose hemp-derived THC edibles. It's considered a DWI, like alcohol, with the same penalties.

The bill provides funding for drug recognition training for law enforcement and establishes a pilot project to study oral fluid roadside tests that determine if someone is high. Right now, there is no such reliable test that's similar to a breathalyzer for alcohol.

What about if I show up to work after I've consumed marijuana?

Minnesota is an "at will" state, so an employer can fire for almost any reason, excluding discrimination based on religion, age, disability, sexual orientation or other protected classes.

An employer can't fire a worker for use on their personal time, but you could get fired for being under the influence while at the workplace.

"If you do go to work high, your employer has every right to fire you under this bill," said Stephenson, the House bill's author.

Except for certain jobs explicitly stated in the bill—like police officers, firefighters, educators, or someone with a commercial driver's license—an employer cannot require a cannabis drug screening for a job candidate as a condition of employment.

Can I smoke weed in a public place?

The legislation says you can only use marijuana for recreational purposes at your private residence, private property of someone else with their permission, and businesses or events licensed for on-site consumption.

Local governments can adopt ordinances making it a petty misdemeanor for someone who breaks those rules.

Smoking marijuana is prohibited in public places or on the balconies or patios of apartment and condo buildings. There are some exceptions for people who are part of the medical program. 

It also prohibits cannabis use at in public schools and correctional facilities.

How will cannabis products be taxed?

There will be a 10% gross receipts tax on cannabis products—whether they are hemp edibles or marijuana. That's on top of general local and state sales taxes. Still, the total tax rate is set to be lower than other states where cannabis is legal, according to an analysis from the Tax Foundation.

Revenues will be shared between the state (80%) and local governments (20%).

Are there rules about where a dispensary can be located?

The bill empowers local governments to "adopt reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner of the operation of a cannabis business," but cities and counties cannot outright ban retail stores selling marijuana from their communities.

They can prohibit a business from operating within 1,000 feet of a school and within 500 feet of daycares and public parks, for example.

A recent change adopted in the compromise deal will allow a local government to limit one retail dispensary for every 12,500 residents 

What happens to medical cannabis?

The state's medical cannabis program has been around since 2014. Patients who are enrolled must have a physician certify their qualifying medical condition. That isn't going away.

There are four medical licenses under the bill, including a new "combination" license added in during the bill's final conference committee that will allow a medical cannabis cultivator and manufacturer to also get into the adult-use market.

Medical cannabis is not subject to general state sales taxes or the new 10% gross receipts tax. 

How about hemp THC edibles?

Last summer, the state legislature authorized the sale of low-dose hemp-derived edibles and drinks with THC—the same compound that can produce a high in marijuana—so long as there aren't more than 5 milligrams per serving and 50 milligrams per package.

There are temporary regulations under this bill so existing businesses can operate while the Office of Cannabis Management gets up and running. The Department of Health is tasked with oversight until 2025, then the new state cannabis office will oversee hemp-derived products, too.

At the time the bill passed last summer, there were no licenses or an additional tax on these products. That changes with this new legislation. They will face a 10% gross receipts tax and will face additional regulations. 

Hemp and marijuana are like cousins, but what makes them different is marijuana has more THC in it. In 2018, Congress passed a bill legalizing hemp by removing it from a Schedule I drug classification if it had no more than .3% of THC on a dry weight basis. 
That means that hemp-only businesses may face fewer hurdles to being profitable. Because of marijuana's federal status, an employer cannot deduct most business-related expenses from federal taxes. 

The legislation allows for THC-infused hemp edibles and drinks to be sold at liquor stores.

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