Marijuana legalization closer in Minnesota as conference committee wraps up work

Cannabis is almost certainly coming to Minnesota, with lawmakers signing off this morning on a final version of the bill legalizing recreational marijuana.

One of the biggest concerns surrounding the bill has been how it might affect the lucrative hemp industry legalized just last year.
Hemp-derived edibles and beverages are off to a strong start in Minnesota and there is at least one potent piece of the bill finalized today that could keep hemp happy.

"We have adopted all the articles," said St. Sen. Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville, as the cannabis conference committee's last meeting came to a close Tuesday.

The bill legalizing recreational cannabis is in its final form.

The conference committee agreed on a state tax of 10% on top of sales taxes -- with 80% going to the state mainly to fund the Office of Cannabis Management and 20% going to local governments.

They also settled on a maximum possession of two pounds in your home, two ounces anywhere else.

GOP support for the bill is slim and even one of the sympathetic Republicans worried about its impact on new hemp businesses.

"The many hemp amendments I brought yesterday are very big concerns in the industry," said Rep. Nolan West, R-Blaine.
West did get an embedment passed allowing hemp-derived products to be displayed in locked cases instead of only behind the counter at stores.

But the legal mix looks good at Minny Grown.

"We’ve doubled our staff," said CEO Zach Rohr. "We’ve doubled our production. We’re increasing our beverage manufacturing because we do anticipate a huge increase in business here."

The Cannon Falls company makes colorful low dosage THC gummies and beverages derived from hemp.

Rohr says the cannabis bill’s provision allowing businesses like his to sell their products at liquor stores will open up a huge market.

That kicks in as soon as the governor signs the bill.

Minny Grown will also apply for a license to grow and sell cannabis.

Rohr says only time will tell if Minnesota’s legislature got it right, but the immediate future looks bright.

"I expect that the existing hemp industry is going to have a pretty far head start on the marijuana industry specific to the edible category," Rohr said.

The House and Senate could vote on the bill as soon as Wednesday.

If it passes, cannabis would be legal to possess on August 1, but the state probably won’t be able to issue retail licenses for 12-16 months.