Minnesota state agencies set target to begin issuing retail licenses for marijuana

Minnesota state agencies are setting a target for a year from now to begin issuing retail licenses for legal marijuana sales.

A request for vendors offers the timeline for a program buildout after the Legislature approved a bill allowing adults at least 21 years old to possess and buy cannabis. Gov. Tim Walz has said he plans to sign the bill into law, making Minnesota the 23rd state to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

The state is seeking a software vendor to manage applications and information around retail licenses. The bid package says the project would start in July and license applications would start in May 2024. The estimated start of marijuana sales from dispensaries is listed as January of 2025, although that could shift.

In the meantime, people will be allowed to grow their own marijuana plants at home within limits beginning this August. They can keep up to two pounds of cultivated cannabis and give away small amounts to people of legal age who they know.

Minnesota has had a medical marijuana program for nearly a decade that started with oils, pills and other non-smokable forms. Leaf form was authorized for that program in 2021. Fewer than half of the other states allow people to grow their own.

Under the proposal awaiting Walz’s signature:

  • Adults 21 years old and up would be able to purchase, possess and use marijuana, although there would be penalties for providing it to minors.

  • The state would impose a 10 percent tax rate, which is lower than a lot of other places where it is sold legally. The proceeds would be used toward fostering the legal market through start-up grants and other regulatory steps. Eighty percent would flow to state coffers and the rest would be earmarked for local governments.

  • Cities and counties could cap the number of cannabis retailers based on population size, with at least one for every 12,500 in a jurisdiction. There would be a floor and communities could issue more licenses.

  • Criminal records of past marijuana offenses could be expunged. That automatic process for the lowest-level crimes would start in August but reach into 2024. More complicated cases would go before a new board for review.

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