Despite having what was once one of the most restrictive medical cannabis programs in the US, Minnesotans may actually get a chance to legalize recreational marijuana this year.
Perhaps spurred by the recent marijuana reforms in neighboring South Dakota, an adult-use bill just cleared a second House Committee just this week.
HF 600, filed by House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, Speaker Melissa Hortman along with other lawmakers seek to legalize the purchase and possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana. Surprisingly enough, it will also allow the home cultivation of up to eight plants, four of which could be mature, as well as on-site consumption and cannabis delivery services. Moreover, the measure would also prevent local municipalities from banning marijuana businesses from operating in their areas.
The bill is said to be almost the same one that Winkler filed last year which was created with input from Minnesotans prior to introduction. Even though it still has to go through several other panels over the course of the next few weeks before it reaches the floor, Winkler’s bill is nevertheless a welcome development that points marijuana reform in the state in the right direction.
This article was reviewed and updated for 2021.
Overview of Minnesota Marijuana Laws
Medical marijuana is legal in Minnesota but recreational use, as well as home cultivation of any kind, is still illegal.
- Possession – Possession of 42 and ½ grams or less is a misdemeanor in Minnesota but it only gets a maximum fine of $200 without jail time since a conditional discharge is usually given to first-time offenders. Any amount exceeding is charged as a felony. Having more than 1.4 grams in one’s vehicle is also a misdemeanor but gets 90 days jail time and a fine of up to $1000.
- 42.5 g to less than 10 kg – up to 5 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000
- 10 kg to less than 50 kg – up to 20 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000
- 50 kg to less than 100 kg – up to 25 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $500,000
- 100 kg or more – up to 20 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000
- Sale – The offense of selling marijuana in Minnesota is a felony that gets the same penalties as possession. However, selling any amount to a minor is automatically a felony that gets up to 30 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1,000,000. Likewise, distributing in a school zone or similar areas is a felony punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $100,000
- Cultivation – The penalties for marijuana cultivation in Minnesota is based on the aggregate weight of the plants involved. The corresponding penalties are the same as in possession/sale.
History of Marijuana in Minnesota
Although the Land of 10,000 Lakes decriminalized marijuana in the early 70s, barely anything happened decades afterward in terms of marijuana reform. In fact, it barely made a dent on the number of marijuana-related arrests which peaked in 2012. Worse yet, the law was enforced unequally, with black people 5.37 times more likely to be arrested for pot than white people.
Medical Marijuana Act
In 2014, then Gov. Mark Dayton signed the state’s Medical Marijuana Act which is known to be one of the most restrictive cannabis programs in the country. Even though Dayton was a Democrat, he was not exactly supportive of marijuana and even said that legalization of recreational cannabis won’t be happening on his watch. His signing of the medical marijuana bill was heavily criticized by marijuana supporters who pointed out that the law excludes a lot of critically ill Minnesotans. Dayton defended his stance, saying that the law had to strike a compromise between what marijuana proponents and law enforcement want.
Initially, the program only allowed patients with cancer (with pain, nausea, vomiting, and/or wasting), glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, tourettes, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), seizure, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, or a debilitating terminal illness with less than a year to live. Qualifying patients may only take the medical marijuana in liquid, pill or vaporized form but not as dried plant material. However, the list of conditions was expanded in 2016 to add “intractable pain” and PTSD in 2017. Chronic pain and age-related macular degeneration were also added in 2019 and became effective just last August 2020.
Failed 2020 legalization effort
Dayton was succeeded by fellow DFL member Tim Walz in 2018. Walz showed his support for cannabis, arguing that a regulated market could be a new source of tax revenue and may even reduce the number of people locked up for drug offenses. The following year, Senator Melisa Franzen and Representative Mike Feiberg and Senator Scott Jensen introduced a recreational marijuana bill that would allow people over 21 to possess, grow, and purchase in limited quantities. This bill got shut down by Republican opposition in 2019, with the sponsors saying that Republicans and even Governor Walz chose not to convene a task force to study the matter further.
Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of Minnesota
How does Minnesota’s marijuana laws compare with home growing laws in other US states? Check out our post on Marijuana Growing Laws in the United States.
FAQs about growing marijuana in Minnesota
No, adult-use cannabis is currently illegal in Minnesota.
None. Home cultivation of recreational cannabis is not allowed in Minnesota.
No, medical marijuana is currently illegal in Minnesota.
None. Home cultivation of medical cannabis is still not allowed in Minnesota.
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, along with Speaker Melissa Hortman and other Democratic lawmakers filed earlier this February HF 600 which seeks to legalize purchase and possess up to 1.5 ounces for adults 21 and older. It will also give them the right to grow up to eight plants at home, four of which can be mature.
Residents are not allowed to cultivate marijuana, whether recreational or medical, at home in Minnesota.
Growing cannabis at home in Minnesota is prohibited for people of all ages.
Developments in marijuana reform could take an exciting turn in Minnesota this year. The legislature is almost evenly split just slightly in favor of Republicans. However, there is tremendous external pressure from neighbors North and South Dakota which have already approved to legalize, with Wisconsin likely to follow suit if all goes according to its governor’s plans. In addition to this, Democratic lawmakers are already working on a bill that could legalize, or at the very least, decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. Given this, there is a likely chance that Winkler’s bill gets passed but with a number of changes that would satisfy the opposition.