House passes Minnesota marijuana bill changes without early cultivation

A new Minnesota marijuana law passed the state House Thursday evening, but it does not address concerns about how the first retailers will get marijuana to sell without breaking the law.

Some last-minute amendments moved up the deadline for preapproval of licenses to grow, distribute, and sell marijuana to August, but failed to change the timeline for a legal market.

The preapproved licenses would not allow anyone to start working with cannabis before a final approval, which isn’t expected until sometime next year.

That means only tribes can legally grow marijuana to supply retailers when they open and they can’t grow anywhere near enough cannabis to meet the expected initial demand.

Almost every state that’s legalized has had a supply shortage out the gate.

A few dozen Republicans wanted to change that by allowing cultivators to get started in October, giving Minnesota a chance to address the supply shortage.

"We should allow people to cultivate as soon as possible because right now the black market is running along amok," said Rep. Nolan West, (R-Blaine). "And the longer we let that happen the more entrenched it will become."

Rep. West's earlier cultivation amendment failed and he withdrew another amendment letting medical cannabis growers sell their product in the recreational market for two years.

The House bill that passed Thursday also allows people to get tax-free medical cannabis if they have certain diagnoses or if their doctors recommend it.

The bill also now calls for a study on how legalization impacts the rate of cannabis use, partly in response to a Fox 9 story earlier this week.