Legalization of a Commercial Market
1. Minnesota Constitutional Amendment Ballot Question
Many of the adult-legal states got there, not by legislation, but by voter initiative on the states’ general election ballot. Minnesota is not an Initiative and Referendum state, as many of those other States are. So we cannot engage in a voter Petition process to certify ballot questions.
In Minnesota, however, we can and we have amended by the Minnesota Constitution many times; via a general election ballot question.
In order for a Minnesota Constitutional amendment question to appear on the general election ballot; both the Minnesota House and the Minnesota Senate must approve a Bill to add the amendment question to the ballot.
Proposed text, with explanatory annotation, appears elsewhere on our site: “Guarantee Equal Rights to Marijuana as to Beer and Wine.” While some may view one’s civil right to buy, sell, and possess cannabis as unworthy of our State’s Constitution, given the injustices resulting from Minnesota’s marijuana prohibition laws, we firmly disagree. After all, the Alcohol Prohibition began and ended via Amendments to the United States Constitution.
2. Legalizing the Commercialization of Adult Use Cannabis
Minnesota House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler introduced legislation in the 2020 Session that would legalize the adult use of cannabis. HF 4632 was the result of months of public discussion on how to responsibly legalize and regulate cannabis; including with leaders in Minnesota cannabis reform organizations as well as Town Halls across the state. This is an important part of our 2022 Minnesota legislative agenda. Here’s a summary of the 2020 Bill by Reason Foundation: The Strengths and Flaws in Minnesota’s Marijuana Legalization Bill. More about the 2020 Adult Use Bill.
Like many bills in the 2020 Session, legislative focus on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic sidelined it.
In 2021, Leader Winkler introduced HF600. You can find the first draft of the bill and links to the initial media reports about it here: https://house.mn/cannabis/
After passing out of twelve different House committees; the bill passed off of the House floor with a vote of 72-61. You can view a video of the House floor debate and vote: view here.
The Senate has not yet scheduled a hearing for the companion to the bill, SF757. Both Bills are still pending in the 2021-2022 Minnesota Legislative Session.
Reducing charging levels and collateral consequences for cannabis related offenses
1. DeFelonize possession of personal small amounts of products-mixtures which contain Delta-9 THC
Make possession of a small personal amount of marijuana concentrates, edibles, and liquids a petty misdemeanor instead of a felony. Remove drug education program requirement for possessing or giving away a small amount of cannabis (to discourage federal courts from imprisoning people for prior small amount convictions). Remove Driver’s License revocations for possession of a small amount of cannabis. Pardon convictions, or expunge records for, individuals with prior felony records if the charge would no longer be a felony after this bill becomes law.
The first incarnation of this bill was introduced in 2020 as HF4000. Last session we secured bipartisan and bicameral support for this legislation with the introduction of SF2348, HF1355, and HF2652.
HF2652 also has automatic expungement for petty misdemeanor cannabis offenses after a one-year waiting period expires; and creates an affirmative defense for medical cannabis patients who aren’t participants in Minnesota’s program at the time of a cannabis-related offense.
2. Exclude drug purity test kits from drug paraphernalia definition
We should encourage testing for drug contaminants and drug identification; not make it illegal.
Legislation to properly address this issue was first introduced in 2019 as HF1588 / SF1600. The language was amended into the House Omnibus Public Safety Finance Bill, via a floor amendment offered by Representative Jeremy Munson. You can view it here.
Last session, the bill was reintroduced in the form of HF883. We obtained a partial victory in a Special Session last summer; when products that detect the presence of fentanyl or a fentanyl analog in a controlled substance were legalized; after both legislative bodies passed the Omnibus public safety bill and the Governor signed it into law.
3. Restore Gun Rights: Delete Controlled Substances crimes from Crimes of Violence Statute
Minn. Stat. § 624.712, subd. 5. (2021) ‘”Crime of violence’ means: felony convictions of the following offenses: [long list of violent crimes] “and chapter 152 (drugs, controlled substances); …” And inclusion on that list means a lifetime loss of civil rights to possess firearms, with mandatory prison for those who do. The existing law is unfair, splits out civil rights to firearms from other civil rights (voting, jury service, public office, etc.). The law now unfairly impacts communities of color, disproportionately convicted of drug crimes relative to per capita rates of drug use.
We should pass an amendment to the felony crimes of violence statute to delete the language “chapter 152 (drugs, controlled substances).”
Medical Cannabis Expansion
1. Access to Medical Cannabis Program for People on Probation or DOC Supervised Release
Explicitly articulate in Statute that patients on probation, parole, supervised release, or conditional release; can participate in Minnesota’s medical cannabis program. This reform measure was first introduced in 2019 via HF3640 / SF3376. Last session these bills were reintroduced in the form of HF1020 / SF2084. The House bill passed the House Public Safety Committee last session. You can view the video: view here. The Minnesota Department of Corrections submitted a letter to the committee saying they had no concerns with the bill language; and that their current policy is consistent with the legislation as written. The bill’s language was subsequently included in Chair Carlos Mariani’s HF1078, the House Omnibus public safety bill which passed off the House floor last session.
On the Senate side the bill’s language was offered by Senator Bigham as an amendment to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Warren Limmer’s SF1124. You can view video of this amendment: view here.
Equal access, even for people with legal and medical struggles, is a civil rights issue in our 2022 Minnesota legislative agenda.
2. Increasing the number of businesses allowed to engage in the Minnesota medical cannabis industry
Minnesota’s current medical cannabis law allows only two vertically-integrated businesses to operate in the industry. While some claimed that this made sense when the program began; the program has now been operational for over seven-years and is seeing a large amount of growth.
Rep. Lucero offered an amendment on the House floor last session to remove the cap on the number of businesses allowed to operate in this industry. And we expect standalone bills to address this issue this session.
3. Reciprocity criminal defense for the possession of medical cannabis
If you are a lawful medical cannabis patient in another State and visit Minnesota, you should be able to bring your cannabis with you. And if you do, you should not face a felony possession charge.
If you face criminal charges for such activity; the law should guarantee your right to inform the jury about the reasons for your actions, as an affirmative defense. FFI: Medical Necessity Defense to Marijuana Charges in Minnesota.
Language addressing this issue was originally included in 2020 in Section 4 of HF4310 / SF4446. Now, it is in Section 14 of HF2652.
4. Legislatively direct the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health to petition the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to exempt our State’s authorized use of cannabis in its current medical cannabis program from the listing of “marihuana,” “THC” and “marihuana extract” in the federal Controlled Substances Act
This part of our 2022 Minnesota legislative agenda highlights the importance of reconciling state and federal law. Currently the federal government views our medical cannabis program as being illegal under federal law. This puts Minnesota patients, caregivers, medical cannabis manufacturers, and State employees who oversee the program in jeopardy of federal prosecution. And it creates a multitude of other regulatory burdens and hardships when these groups engage with federal agencies.
As summarized by Rep. Pat Garofalo during the 2014 House floor debate on the bill which ended up becoming Minnesota’s medical cannabis law: “The root problem is that the federal government has a mindless, fact free classification of marijuana as a federal Schedule I drug.”
First introduced in 2020 with bipartisan and bicameral authors, this issue was included in Section 8 of HF3639 / SF3375.
Our push last summer to enact this change in conference committee during the legislature’s special session resulted in this Star Tribune article, this YouTube video, and this article from The Guardian
5. Removal of marijuana & nonsynthetic THC from Schedule I classification in Minnesota
This would remove marijuana and natural-THC from Schedule I in Minnesota’s version of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. Substances in Schedule I require a finding that they have “no currently accepted medical use in the United States”. But for marijuana and natural-THC, that is factually not the case. And our State’s own medical cannabis laws are evidence that marijuana and natural-THC do have “currently accepted medical use in the United States.”
This proposal was first introduced in sections 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, and 12 of HF2807 / SF2198, introduced in 2019 with bicameral and bipartisan coauthorship. It was reintroduced in 2020 via Sections 1-5 HF3639 / SF3375.
In 2021, this language was introduced a third time via HF675 / HF1023 / SF1357.
The Minnesota House Health Committee had a hearing on and passed this bill. You can view the committee hearing here.
The language was included in Chair Leibling’s HF2128, her Omnibus Health Bill. And the House passed it off of the floor. But unfortunately the Senate did not agree to it, in the bill’s conference committee.
After passage, marijuana and natural-THC would no longer be criminal purely due to inclusion in Minnesota’s Schedule 1. We could still regulate them, however.
6. Prohibit the Issuers of Carry Permits from Denying Permits to Medical Cannabis Patients
While problems will still persist due to the federal government’s classification of marijuana and THC as a Schedule I Controlled Substance; we support the Minnesota Gun Owner’s Caucus bills which would help secure the Second Amendment rights of Minnesota medical cannabis patients, under State law. Rep. Munson introduced this Bill last session as HF435. And this session Senator Koran introduced its Senate Companion, SF2802.
Protect the Rights of Minnesota Hemp Consumers and Producers
1. Clarify the legality of possessing hemp products
A 2021 Minnesota Appellate Court Ruling called into question the legality of possession of certain hemp products; even non-intoxicating ones like CBD and CBG, in Minnesota. While the court deemed that possession of hemp in its bud or flower form is legal; it claimed that possession of any other hemp product is currently illegal due to a drafting error in the legislature’s recent hemp legalization bill.
That case argues that since Delta-9 THC is currently a Schedule I substance in Minnesota, and since Delta-9 THC derived from hemp wasn’t specifically excluded; possession of hemp products with even trace amounts of Delta-9 THC (0.03% or less), constitute possession of a Schedule I Controlled Substance, a crime.
Minnesota Supreme Court granted review of the ruling. So the Minnesota Judicial Branch may end up reversing that opinion. We are also exploring administrative remedies to this problem by engaging with various Minnesota governmental agencies
Senator Bigham’s recently introduced SF2975 would properly address this issue legislatively. And we will be working to help it become law.
2. Legalize the Sale of Delta-8 and Other Hemp Products
Except for the issue addressed above, resulting from the Minnesota Court of Appeals Loveless ruling; possession of Delta-8 products is legal in Minnesota. But some Minnesota State Agencies now say the sale of these products is illegal. We support any legislation that would allow Minnesota businesses to engage in sales of these products; instead of forcing Minnesota consumers to buy them from businesses which don’t have their roots in Minnesota.
3. Legalize Cannabinoids in Food
Rep. Vang recently introduced HF2996, a bill authorizing the use of hemp extract as a food additive. Cannabis consumers have long cherished edibles as a delivery method. Even though the sale of non-intoxicating hemp products were made legal for human consumption; it is not currently legal to add cannabinoids derived from hemp to food. We’ll also be working to pass this bill into law.
4. CBD Products Shouldn’t Need FDA Approval for Sale in Minnesota
The Minnesota Board of Pharmacy is currently claiming that since the federal Food and Drug Administration approved a single application for one CBD product, Epidiolex, years ago; now all CBD products need FDA approval before being able to be legally sold in Minnesota. We support any and all efforts to legalize the sale of CBD by Minnesota-based companies.