A bill to legalize marijuana in Minnesota has been approved by its last House committee and will now go to the floor.
It has been a long and winding road to get to this position, with 12 hearing and voting panels on the measure since its introduction in February.
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D), President Melissa Hortman (D) and other lawmakers have tabled the proposal, which would allow adults 21 and over to buy and own up to 1 , 5 oz of cannabis and grow up to eight plants, four of which could be mature.
Members of the House Ways and Means Committee approved the bill in a 4-10 vote on Friday.
Winkler has previously said he expects a floor vote this month, although it has not yet been scheduled. The legislature is due to adjourn on May 17.
Bill “helps right the harm that has been done for too long in Minnesota to communities that have been over-controlled and that have been targeted for cannabis law enforcement to promote a cannabis ban that doesn’t work, ”the majority leader said in opening remarks.
Winkler said that “legalizing and creating a secure market by taxing cannabis and using the proceeds of those taxes to pay for cannabis regulation to help invest in a cannabis industry” would reflect “the values of the Minnesotans and help address the damage caused by the ban on cannabis on our black and brown communities. “
The panel adopted a amendment de Winkler which broadens the definition of social equity contenders to include those from communities disproportionately affected by the ban and changes how regulators would deal with rule violations by companies. It would also revise the amount of funding for various government agencies, including a reduction in appropriations for the Department of Corrections.
A proposal to require that the label of marijuana products include information on the maximum dose considered safe in a 24-hour period was also approved.
An additional amount of amendment that would have required that marijuana products be labeled with a warning that cannabis remains illegal under federal law has been rejected.
Prior to considering the legalization bill, members passed an amendment to the separate budget legislation that would provide funding for the implementation of the cannabis program for the first biennium, after which tax revenues of marijuana would more than cover the costs.
If the measure wipes out the entire chamber of the House, it is still expected to face a significant challenge in the Republican-controlled Senate, where lawmakers have signaled they are more interested in revising the program. of existing medical cannabis in the state than through the legalization of adult consumption.
That said, a GOP member of the Taxation Committee, which approved the legalization bill on Wednesday, said he believed an amendment he introduced and passed could bolster Republican support.
This review by Representative Pat Garofolo (right) directs remaining cannabis revenues to a tax relief account once implementation costs are covered and substance abuse prevention and treatment programs are in place. funded.
“Passing this amendment is a game changer,” Garofalo said in a press release. “The Democratic majority accepting this amendment means that if signed into law, this bill will result in lower taxes that Minnesotans are FORCED to pay, funded by the revenue generated from the taxes people CHOOSE to pay. “
Prior to the Tax Committee, the bill was passed by the Health Finance and Policy Committee, the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee, the Committee on Education Funding, State Government Finance and Election Committee, Judicial and Civil Law Funding Committee, Policy Committee, Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee, Finance and Policy Committee Workforce and Enterprise Development Committee, Finance and Policy Committee for Labor, Industry, Veterans Affairs and Military Affairs and Committee on Finance and Trade Policy.
It’s official: for the first time in Minnesota’s history, the entire House will vote on legalizing and deregistering cannabis.
– Ryan Winkler (@_RyanWinkler) May 7, 2021
“Earlier this year, a House committee had never passed a legalization bill. Now we are about to pass a bill on the floor of the House, ”said Winkler in a E-mail to supporters on Friday. “We have the ability to change laws in ways that improve people’s lives, from clearing cannabis-related records, to targeting economic opportunities for those most affected by the war against drugs, to provide relief to veterans suffering from PTSD and serious health problems, and more. “
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The litany of committees the bill has passed through makes it perhaps the most painstakingly approved legalization measure to pass through a state legislature – and that means a solid part of the House has already had a chance to ” consider, propose amendments and vote on the bill. legislation as it advances, presumably increasing its chances of making it through the House.
The Majority Leader Bill as presented was identical to a proposal he tabled last year, with some minor technical changes. Winkler, who led a statewide listen-in for public comment before the measure was introduced, called it “the country’s best legalization bill” at the time. However, he did not advance during this session.
Under the law, social equity would be a priority, in part by ensuring the diversity of licenses and preventing the market from being monopolized by companies. Previous marijuana registrations would also be automatically erased.
On-site cannabis consumption and delivery services would be permitted under the bill. And unlike many legal states, local municipalities would be prohibited from banning marijuana businesses from operating in their area.
Retail sales of cannabis would be taxed at 10%. A portion of this revenue would fund a grant program designed to promote economic development and community stability.
the bill Calls for the creation of a seven-person Cannabis Management Board, which would be responsible for regulating the market and issuing commercial licenses for cannabis. It was amended in committee month to add members to this council who have a background in social justice.
People living in low-income neighborhoods and veterans who have lost their honorable status due to a cannabis offense would be considered eligible social equity candidates for priority licensing.
Retail sales of cannabis would begin on December 31, 2022.
Gov. Tim Walz (R) is also in favor of ending the marijuana ban, and in January he called on lawmakers to continue reform as a way to boost the economy and promote racial justice. However, he did not include a request for legalization in his budget proposal.
Walz said in 2019 he was leading state agencies to prepare to implement reform in anticipation of the passage of legalization.
Winkler, meanwhile, said in December that if Senate Republicans did not accept the policy change on the legislative front, he hoped they would at least let voters decide on cannabis as a voting measure for 2022.
As the 2020 election approached, Democrats thought they had a chance to take control of the Senate, but that did not happen. The result appears to be in part because candidates from marijuana-focused parties in the state garnered a significant share of the votes that might otherwise have gone to Democrats, which may have inadvertently hurt the chances of success. adoption of the reform.
In December, the Minnesota House Select Committee on Racial Justice adopted a report that extensively details racial disparities in the application of criminal laws and recommends a series of policy changes, including decriminalization and marijuana redactions.
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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.