Marijuana legalization passes Minnesota Senate

After several hours of debate, the Minnesota Senate voted to approve a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana for adult use in Minnesota.

"The prohibition on cannabis has had tremendously negative impacts on the lives of Minnesotans, especially our communities of color, and it is time for us to change course and create a system that works," said Sen. Lindsey Port (DFL-Burnsville). "We have had a thorough conversation with fellow legislators, members of the communities, and stakeholders throughout the state in making sure our bill works for Minnesota, and it does. It’s time to legalize, regulate, and expunge."

The Minnesota House earlier this week passed its version of a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana.

Lawmakers discussed more than 20 amendments throughout two sessions spanning two days prior to its passing. Several contentious changes centered around giving local jurisdictions more control over legalization ultimately failed to get approval prior to the House Floor vote.

However, there are still differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

Both House and Senate bills will now be sent to a conference committee where the differences will be reconciled. Members of the conference committee will vote on the compromise bill before it heads to Gov. Tim Walz's desk for his signature. As recently as last week, Walz has vowed to sign a recreational cannabis bill.

Both bills would allow people who are 21 and older to buy up to 2 ounces of cannabis flower, 8 grams of concentrate and 800 milligrams of edibles at once. It would also allow adults to grow up to eight cannabis plants. The differences in the bills relate to issues that include marijuana possession at home and tax rates for cannabis products. 

Previous iterations of legislation that would legalize recreational usage have passed the House before but historically faced a roadblock in the GOP-controlled Senate. However, with the DFL taking control of the Senate in the previous election, establishing a trifecta of control, the measure was sure to be taken up again. 

Last year, the Minnesota Legislature approved legislation that legalized hemp-derived THC products in Minnesota – a move that some considered a "half-step" en route to full legalization. One that also added confusion for the legal hemp industry.