Minnesota marijuana lottery has some seeing green

Cannabis (FOX 9)

Minnesota’s marijuana law is changing to give businesses a head start on next year, but a license lottery has some people green with envy.

The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) laid out its proposed changes to the law Friday in the House and Senate. They’re trying to speed up the licensing process, reduce financial risks for applicants, and prevent phantom businesses. So they’re planning to give out some temporary licenses, including 50 for retailers.

Those licenses would go to business owners who were negatively impacted by previous marijuana laws or who live in low income zip codes. But the new bill makes it, so those people need to own 65% of the business instead of 100%.

"With this new proposal, the OCM has created a path for multi-state operators to come in and expand their footprint in Minnesota," said Calandra Revering of the Minnesota Association of Black Cannabis Professionals.

The concern is that out-of-town businesses will come to Minnesota and recruit people who qualify as social equity applicants to act as straw owners.

"I want to make very clear: This is not play-to-play," said Charlene Briner, interim director of the OCM. "This is not an opportunity to flood the system."

Leaders at the OCM say they want the changes to make sure social equity businesses have access to cash. They’ll be vetted for viability, then entered into a lottery for the temporary licenses. Temporary licenses will convert to permanent licenses when the state makes those available. They're hoping to do that sometime in the first three months of 2025.

But as it stands, even temporary license holders would not be allowed to sell marijuana or grow any more plants than a single person can.

The new cannabis bill is still a work in progress and a more polished bill is expected next Wednesday.