Minnesota House of Representatives votes to legalize cannabis!
Last update: May 26, 2021
On Thursday, May 13, 2021, the Minnesota House of Representatives voted to legalize cannabis in a 72-61 vote! This was the first time either chamber of the state legislature voted to legalize cannabis.
Unfortunately, however, the legislature adjourned its regular session two days later, and the Senate leadership has opposed legalization. When the legislature reconvenes its regular session in 2022, legislation picks up where it left off — HF 600 will already be out of the House and in the Senate. However, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has said his Republican caucus is strongly opposed.
Legalization would create tens of thousands of desperately needed jobs and hundreds of millions in tax revenue, and it would reduce unnecessary stops, searches, and arrests that unfairly and unequally target Black Minnesotans. A 2020 ACLU report shows Minnesota has the eighth worst racial disparities in the nation, with Black individuals 5.4 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as whites, despite nearly identical use rates.
Minnesota’s medical cannabis program expands; legislature adds flower and smoking
In 2014, then-Governor Mark Dayton signed into law a medical marijuana program after insisting on modifications that made it extremely restrictive and that drive up the costs of medical cannabis.
Among the restrictions were: the qualifying conditions were exceptionally limited; raw/ flower cannabis was prohibited; medical professionals had greater burdens to participate; and the manufacturers/ dispensaries were extremely limited. Thanks to the work of advocates and the openness of regulators, the program has improved substantially since then but remains restrictive.
Local advocates, often with assistance from MPP, have petitioned the Minnesota Office of Medical Cannabis to add qualifying conditions. As a result, the program has slowly expanded. The law required the office to consider adding intractable pain, which it approved in 2015. Then, following the petition process, it added PTSD in 2016, obstructive sleep apnea and autism in late 2017, Alzheimer’s disease in 2018, and chronic pain in 2019. The health department also approved macular degeneration, but it was rejected by the legislature. Beginning in August 2021, sickle cell disease and chronic motor or vocal tic disorder will qualify.
In May 2021, the legislature approved allowing raw/ flower cannabis — including smoking — for adults 21 and older and expanded caregiver provisions. On May 25, 2021, Gov. Tim Walz signed the bill (HF 2128) into law.