A bill that would legalize recreational marijuana in Minnesota is headed to Democratic Governor Tim Walz for his signature after the state Senate gave the law its final stamp of approval after weeks of debate.
The Minnesota Senate voted 34-32 early Saturday morning after the measure cleared the state House with little bipartisan support last week.. The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, known in the state as the Democratic outfit, controls both legislative chambers.
Walz said he plans to sign the bill into law, which would make Minnesota the 23rd state to legalize adult-use cannabis and the third Midwestern state to do so. CNN has reached Walz’s office for comment.
Under the measure, Minnesota residents age 21 and older can possess up to two ounces of marijuana flowers in public and two pounds at home. starting August 1. The bill would also give people with marijuana convictions a chance to clear their records by automatically expunging low-level convictions and establishing a review board to determine eligibility for higher level violations.
The measure would also establish an Office of Cannabis Management, which would oversee the regulation and sale of cannabis products in the state.
“For the past three years, DFLers in the legislature have worked and listened to create a Minnesota-specific model for legalizing cannabis,” Democratic state Rep. Zack Stephenson, the bill’s sponsor, said in a news release before the final passage.
“This bill creates a safe, well-regulated legal market, and incorporates best practices for consumer protection, health, and public safety. It also prioritizes a robust decriminalization program, so that people disproportionately affected by our current cannabis laws can get on with their lives. It’s time for legalization, and I’m proud to push this bill forward,” he added.
While Stephenson said regulatory and removal efforts will begin once the law takes effect, he highlighted on Twitter that changes don’t happen overnight. He doesn’t expect licensed dispensaries for up to 18 months, and he noted that expunging “tens of thousands” of previous cannabis convictions could take years to complete.
The bill jumped through several hoops before it passed both chambers of the state legislature. Since it was introduced in January, the bill has been reviewed by more than a dozen committees before reaching the House floor.
Although it passed the House earlier this week 73-57, with CNN affiliate WCCO reporting that five Republicans voted in favor of the bill, GOP state lawmakers largely opposed it.
“While many Minnesotans increasingly support the legalization of cannabis, this bill is not ready. It will make our roads less safe, limit local decision-making for our communities, put at risk the health of our children, and the government will grow with more than 100 new bureaucrats to enforce confusing licensing regulations,” Republican state Sen. Jordan Rasmusson, who sat in the conference committee on the bill, told CNN in a statement. “It would be wrong for Democrats to plow ahead with legislation they know needs to be fixed in the near future.”
The marijuana bill is the latest progressive policy the DFL-led legislature has been able to pass this session, which ends Monday.
Walz signed legislation this session that will soon restore voting rights to thousands of convicted felons. He also signed a measure codifying abortion rights into state law and recently signed a package of bills banning so-called conversion therapy in the state and making Minnesota a a safe haven for people accessing abortion and gender-affirming care from out of state. .
On Friday, so will Walz signed a new law with extensive new gun safety restrictions, including a “red flag” provision that would allow courts to temporarily confiscate firearms from someone deemed a danger to their self or others.