Minnesota marijuana update including early cultivation passes Senate

Minnesota’s new marijuana law now carves out an early start for cultivation.

A timeline for early cultivation was one of 19 accepted amendments during more than six hours of debate and discussion before the 34-32 vote along party lines.

Recreational marijuana cultivation could start in Minnesota by the end of this year, with the hopes of getting legal cannabis to retailers when they start next year.

An amendment to this year’s legal updates would let the new Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) use already existing medical cultivation rules.

"It gives OCM the ability to start that cultivation process even without starting the retail process," said the Senate bill's author, Sen. Lindsey Port, (DFL-Burnsville).

Applications would start by August, but cultivators still need to get local zoning approval.

Republicans offered several changes to the bill, including some that were already rejected last year.

A new amendment would’ve made underage possession a misdemeanor that stays on your record rather than a petty misdemeanor that doesn’t.

"We do this for alcohol," said Sen. Jordan Rasmusson, (R-Fergus Falls), who authored the amendment. "We do it for tobacco. We have penalties and we restrict where these products are sold to limit exposure, but for cannabis, we have nothing."

Underage tobacco possession is also a petty misdemeanor, but with alcohol it’s a Class B misdemeanor.

Sen. Port says marijuana possession laws have been disproportionately enforced — unevenly aimed at minority communities.

And she says prohibition hasn’t prevented use as well as youth education programs.

The Sen. Rasmusson amendment came up short and GOP senators felt the bill did, too.

"I think there’s was a lot on last year's bill that needed fixing," Sen. Rasmusson said. "However, some of the most important fixes were voted down today."

Republicans did get some amendments through, including letting cities and counties open their own municipal stores even if the area has already maxed out licenses.