Minnesota House Passes Bill Allowing Early Cannabis Licensing for Businesses

Minnesota House Passes Bill Allowing Early Cannabis Licensing for Businesses

The Minnesota House recently passed legislation that brings significant changes to the state’s cannabis laws, affecting both recreational and medicinal use. Among the key alterations is the introduction of a pre-approval process for businesses seeking to enter the cannabis market, alongside revisions to the licensing system.

This move aims to provide an early advantage to businesses through “pre-approved” licenses, facilitating their preparation for the upcoming market launch. Representative Zack Stephenson emphasized the importance of this change, noting that it allows prospective entrepreneurs to secure resources and plan effectively for their future operations. However, it’s crucial to note that these early licenses are exclusively available to individuals meeting the criteria for “social equity” applicants.

Despite the anticipation surrounding these adjustments, there are concerns within the industry and among legislators. Representative Nolan West voiced apprehension regarding the potential delay in cultivation activities, advocating for an earlier start to address the demand for cannabis products. Meanwhile, debates over the licensing process intensify, particularly regarding the transition from a merit-based system to a lottery-based approach.

The proposed lottery system has sparked controversy, with proponents arguing for its fairness and detractors expressing doubts about its efficacy in achieving social equity goals. While some believe it offers equal opportunities, others fear it could be exploited by larger, out-of-state retailers. Nevertheless, House Speaker Melissa Hortman endorsed the switch to a random selection process, emphasizing its fairness.

The legislation also encompasses various other provisions, including expansions to the medical cannabis program and regulatory adjustments to accommodate evolving market dynamics. Additionally, amendments addressing concerns such as data privacy and audit trails were incorporated to enhance the bill’s integrity.

As the bill progresses to the Senate, discussions on refining the proposed changes are expected to continue. With both chambers actively involved in shaping the final legislation, the focus remains on creating a robust regulatory framework that balances economic opportunities with social equity considerations.

6 Criteria for Social Equity Applicants in Minnesota

6 Criteria for Social Equity Applicants in Minnesota

Eligibility criteria for those seeking consideration as a social equity applicant in Minnesota:

1. You have a prior conviction related to the possession or sale of cannabis before May 1, 2023.

2. You have a family member (parent, guardian, child, spouse, or dependent) who was convicted of a cannabis-related offense before May 1, 2023.

3. You are a dependent of someone who was convicted of a cannabis-related offense before May 1, 2023.

4. You are a military veteran, including those with service-connected disabilities, current or former members of the national guard, or any veteran or former national guard member who lost honorable status due to a cannabis-related offense.

5. You have resided for the past five years in one or more areas, such as census tracts or neighborhoods, subject to disproportionate cannabis enforcement (specific criteria to be determined by the Office of Cannabis Management).

6. You have resided for the past five years in one or more census tracts where, according to the most recent decennial census published by the United States Bureau of the Census, the poverty rate was 20% or higher, or where the median family income did not exceed 80% of the statewide median family income, or, if in a metropolitan area, did not exceed 80% of the statewide median family income or 80% of the median family income for that metropolitan area.

Cultivating Compassion: Minnesota’s Cannabis Legislation Paves the Way for Patient-Centered Care

Cultivating Compassion: Minnesota’s Cannabis Legislation Paves the Way for Patient-Centered Care

In the realm of cannabis legislation, amidst debates over licenses and regulatory frameworks, lies a profound principle that often gets overshadowed: compassionate care. In Minnesota, lawmakers are embarking on a transformative journey, placing compassion at the forefront of their cannabis policies.

Compassionate care isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a guiding ethos that recognizes the inherent dignity and worth of every individual seeking relief through medical cannabis. It’s about ensuring that those facing debilitating conditions have access to the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, regardless of their socioeconomic status or geographic location.

At the heart of Minnesota’s legislative agenda are initiatives aimed at expanding access to medical cannabis for patients in need. Rep. Jessica Hanson’s proposal, HF3766, stands as a testament to this commitment, allowing patients enrolled in the medical cannabis registry program to cultivate up to 16 cannabis plants at home. This measure not only empowers patients to take control of their treatment but also fosters a sense of autonomy and self-reliance.

Moreover, Hanson’s HF3760 offers vital protections for medical cannabis patients, shielding them from punitive measures by schools, landlords, or occupational licensing boards. This safeguard ensures that patients can pursue their treatment without fear of discrimination or retribution—a fundamental aspect of compassionate care.

Beyond individual patient rights, Minnesota legislators are exploring avenues to extend compassion to marginalized communities. Rep. Kaohly Vang Her’s HF4789 seeks to expand the range of health conditions eligible for medical cannabis treatment, recognizing that effective compassionate care must be inclusive and responsive to diverse medical needs.

In the spirit of equity and inclusivity, Hanson’s HF4195 proposes a pilot project to facilitate medical cannabis sales to tribal governments and Tribal cannabis businesses. This initiative acknowledges the unique health challenges faced by Indigenous communities and strives to ensure that they too can benefit from the therapeutic potential of cannabis.

However, compassion in cannabis legislation extends beyond medical parameters. It encompasses broader social justice concerns, including the disproportionate impact of drug laws on marginalized communities. Sen. Clare Oumou Verbeten’s SF 3670 aims to repeal the existing tax on illegal drugs—a step towards dismantling punitive systems that perpetuate harm and hinder access to compassionate care.

As Minnesota navigates the complexities of cannabis regulation, the underlying ethos of compassionate care serves as a guiding light, illuminating pathways towards greater equity, accessibility, and dignity for all. It’s a reminder that behind every policy decision and legislative debate, there are individuals seeking relief, comfort, and hope—a reminder that compassion must always remain at the heart of our endeavors.

Other bills filed:
Medical Cannabis Home Grow: Rep. Jessica Hanson from DFL-Burnsville proposed HF3766, allowing patients in the medical cannabis registry program to cultivate up to 16 cannabis plants without a license, twice the allowance for non-patients. The bill also contemplates caregivers growing cannabis for patients, although the limit of patients per caregiver remains undecided. Sen. Clare Oumou Verbeten of DFL-St. Paul sponsored the Senate version, SF4734.

Patient Protection: Hanson’s HF3760 aims to shield medical cannabis patients from repercussions by schools, landlords, or occupational licensing boards for being on the registry and utilizing medical cannabis products.

Tribal Sales of Medical Cannabis: HF4195, introduced by Hanson, proposes a pilot project permitting the state’s two medical cannabis providers to engage in sales to tribal governments and Tribal cannabis enterprises. Hanson expressed skepticism regarding the measure’s passage this session.

Expansion of Medical Cannabis Health Conditions: Rep. Kaohly Vang Her of DFL-St. Paul introduced HF4789, seeking to broaden the range of health conditions eligible for medical cannabis treatment. While the current law grants the commissioner of the Department of Health authority to determine covered conditions, Her’s bill would empower a patient’s doctor to assess cannabis’s potential efficacy.

Ban on Menthol Flavors: Her’s HF4251 prohibits the approval of cannabis and hemp-derived consumer products containing menthol or other flavorings by the Office of Cannabis Management.

Counterfeit Packaging Prohibition: HF4377, sponsored by Rep. Stephenson, prohibits the sale of counterfeit packaging resembling approved products and grants enforcement authority to the state attorney general.

Legalization of Low-Potency Hemp Products: Rep. Nolan West from R-Blaine proposed HF4629 to establish a process for legalizing certain lower-potency hemp products previously outlawed by HF100.

Repeal of Illegal Drug Tax: SF 3670, co-sponsored by Sen. Oumou Verbeten and Rep. Hanson, seeks to repeal the existing tax on illegal drugs, which currently mandates illegal drug dealers to purchase and affix tax stamps to their products.

Reinstatement of Underage Possession Penalties: HF 4635 and SF 3925, with bipartisan support, aim to reinstate misdemeanor penalties for underage possession of marijuana, a provision omitted by HF100.

DNR Lands Cannabis Restriction: Sen. John Hoffman’s bill SF 4538 prohibits cannabis presence on any state Department of Natural Resources land.

Ban on Health Claims in Cannabis Advertising: SF 5054 and HF 5101, sponsored by Sen. Carla Nelson and Rep. Kristin Robbins, respectively, prohibit cannabis advertisements from making health claims beyond “unverified” assertions.

Mandatory Health Labeling: SF 5079 and HF 5103, introduced by Sen. Nelson and Rep. Robbins, mandate comprehensive health labeling on all cannabis products, warning consumers of potential risks supported by scientific evidence.

St. Paul College Launches Innovative Cannabis Career Programs in Anticipation of Legalization Boom

St. Paul College Launches Innovative Cannabis Career Programs in Anticipation of Legalization Boom

The announcement of St. Paul College’s new certificate programs for cannabis careers reflects the changing landscape of marijuana laws in Minnesota. With the legalization of recreational marijuana use and the anticipation of large retail sales beginning in 2025, educational institutions are adapting to the emerging industry by offering specialized training.

St. Paul College is pioneering this initiative among Minnesota community colleges by introducing three certificate programs focused on different aspects of the cannabis industry. The cultivation program covers skills such as trimming and packaging plants, the retail program prepares students for customer interactions and product selection in stores, and the extraction and product development program teaches the creation of edibles and topical products, emphasizing accurate dosage.

The college aims to eliminate barriers for students entering the workforce, and these programs are designed to be flexible, allowing students to complete them on their own schedules. The online courses, developed in partnership with Green Flower, a California-based company, consist largely of pre-recorded videos featuring industry experts with experience in states where marijuana has been legalized.

St. Paul College’s move aligns with the anticipated growth in cannabis-related jobs as the industry expands. While it’s unclear how many Minnesota schools offer similar cannabis education courses, St. Paul College is the second institution within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system to provide such programs.

The affordability of the courses, each priced at $750 and lasting nine weeks, makes them accessible to a broad range of students. Additionally, the programs offer the flexibility of starting at any time throughout the week or year.

The college plans to closely monitor the development of regulations for recreational marijuana sales in the state. They will engage with community members, as well as city and county officials, to ensure that the programs meet local needs. The initiative is seen as a dynamic response to the evolving cannabis landscape, with the possibility of future adjustments based on community feedback and industry developments.

Source Citation:
Navratil, Liz. “St. Paul College Announces New Program to Prepare Students for Cannabis Careers.” Star Tribune, 1 Jan. 2024, www.startribune.com/st-paul-college-announces-new-program-to-prepare-students-for-cannabis-careers/600148278/.

Participate Now: Minnesota Seeks Public Input on Cannabis Retail and Sanitary Standards

Participate Now: Minnesota Seeks Public Input on Cannabis Retail and Sanitary Standards

Minnesota’s cannabis landscape is evolving, and the state Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) is actively seeking public input to shape the future of the emerging commercial market. In its latest move, OCM has opened its third public survey, focusing on retail cannabis operations and sanitary standards within the industry.

Originally planning a total of five surveys on various cannabis-related topics, OCM is utilizing this feedback to inform the rulemaking process under the state’s recently enacted legalization law. Previous surveys covered issues such as cultivation, processing, manufacturing, pesticides, fertilizers, and environmental controls.

The current survey, open until December 28, delves into retail business operations, retail sanitary standards (facilities and handling), and an expedited complaint process for local governments. The OCM emphasizes the importance of public input, ensuring a diverse range of voices shape the rules governing the commercial cannabis market.

The survey comprises open-ended questions, allowing participants to share their insights on opportunities, key considerations, and any additional feedback. Respondents can also provide reference links or supporting documents. The OCM’s commitment to inclusivity extends to its encouragement of community members, advocates, and partners to actively participate in the rulemaking process.

Beyond the current survey, forthcoming topics include packaging and labeling, business licensing, social equity, and laboratory standards for edible products. Following the proposal of new rules by the OCM, the public will have an opportunity to provide feedback, with the expectation that the rules may be in force by 2025.

While the regulatory process unfolds, Minnesota residents aged 21 and older can already legally use, possess, and grow marijuana for personal use. Governor Tim Walz has clarified that homegrown cannabis cannot be commercially sold.

In addition to the regulatory developments, some tribes within the state have entered the legal marijuana market. The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians and the White Earth Nation tribe, for example, have opened medical dispensaries, showcasing the diversity of participation in the evolving cannabis industry.

Despite regulatory progress, challenges have emerged, including the resignation of the OCM’s leader and legal considerations related to the odor of marijuana not establishing probable cause for vehicle searches.

On a broader scale, Minnesota is also addressing drug policy reform, with recent legislation legalizing drug paraphernalia possession, syringe services, controlled substances residue, and testing. Furthermore, the state is actively preparing for the potential legalization of psychedelics, with a dedicated task force already in motion.

In the political arena, Representative Dean Phillips, a consistent advocate for drug policy reform, has announced his bid for president. Former Governor Jesse Ventura has expressed interest in becoming the “first major politician in America” to have his face on a marijuana brand.

As Minnesota navigates the complexities of cannabis regulation, discussions around the interpretation of constitutional provisions have arisen. Some argue that a constitutional amendment could allow farmers to sell homegrown marijuana without a license, while others believe legislative clarification is necessary.

Governor Walz has stated that it was not the intention to create an alternative commerce pathway for homegrown marijuana sales under the current legalization law. Legal experts and lawmakers are expected to revisit and refine cannabis regulations in the coming years, reflecting the evolving nature of cannabis legislation.

New Cannabis Research Center Opens at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health Launches

New Cannabis Research Center Opens at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health Launches

The University of Minnesota School of Public Health has just unveiled its groundbreaking initiative, the Cannabis Research Center (CRC), aimed at evaluating the effects of adult-use cannabis legalization and shaping future policies in the state.

This noteworthy development, announced on Thursday, stems from the state’s adult-use legalization law, which allocates a substantial $2.5 million annually from cannabis sales tax to establish the CRC.

Dr. Traci Toomey, a distinguished professor at the School of Public Health, assumes the pivotal role of the CRC’s inaugural director. The research will span various aspects, including the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders, equity concerns, educational initiatives, and the exploration of decriminalization.

Timothy Beebe, the Interim Dean of the School of Public Health, outlined the initial priorities for the CRC. These include identifying key staff and faculty members with relevant expertise, forming an executive committee to guide the center’s strategy, and establishing partnerships across the state to advance its crucial work.

The CRC has already laid down fundamental principles to steer its endeavors. These principles encompass leading the scientific community in cannabis research, prioritizing questions related to equity with an unwavering commitment to antiracist practices, optimizing health benefits, and minimizing health issues associated with cannabis use. Additionally, the CRC aspires to be a reliable source of information on cannabis research for individuals, communities, and organizations.

Dean Beebe expressed confidence in the CRC’s ability to collaborate effectively with state and local agencies, as well as community-based organizations. The aim is to explore and identify the primary research priorities concerning cannabis use in Minnesota. Beebe stated, “I am confident that, under Dr. Toomey’s leadership, the CRC will provide the data and evidence our policymakers need to make informed decisions about cannabis to prevent inequity and adverse health impacts throughout Minnesota.” The CRC’s mission is clear: to be a catalyst for informed decision-making that promotes equity and safeguards the well-being of Minnesota’s residents.