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Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


Even as Minnesota's new law on recreational marijuana went into effect last year, it was clear that it was a work in progress. Now, during the 2024 legislative session, lawmakers are spending considerable time combing through the legislation and trying to improve it.

As result, there are dozens of proposed technical changes and tweaks to the state legislation in the legislative pipeline. Some of those recommended changes in a few broad categories should be adopted this year as Minnesota's legal recreational cannabis industry develops.

Charlene Briner, state Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) interim director, described this year's process as trying to "build the plane, while flying it." She said that the agency is working with about 75 staff now and expects to have about twice that number when all the hiring is completed.

During an interview with an editorial writer, Briner said that OCM supports strengthening the social equity elements of Chapter 342 — provisions to allow those who were negatively affected by previous laws against lower-level cannabis possession to get into the business. Those changes include allowing social equity applicants to get temporary licenses earlier than others — by July of this year instead of the scheduled start time in 2025.

It also would create a vetted lottery selection process for applicants instead of the points-based licensing system now in place. Some potential licensees have objected to that change because they've already begun their applications under the points system. However, OCM staffers have studied such systems in other states and believe that a lottery system supports fairer entrance into the market and more equitable outcomes.

The Star Tribune Editorial Board has previously argued in favor of expunging the records of those who have low-level cannabis offenses and for more research on the health, social and other impacts of legalized recreational cannabis. BCA officials recently announced that they are making progress on automatic expungements. And OCM will coordinate with other agencies on research about the impact of legalization on everything from rates of impaired driving to first-use psychosis and consumption demand.

The Editorial Board has also advocated for statewide clarification on where people may light up in public spaces. OCM-supported legislation doesn't include that delineation because the agency believes its role is regulatory and that those rules should be left to the local county and city agencies, as well as the DNR when it comes to state-operated parks.

It also would be helpful to have uniform rules across the state for public areas such as parks. Even outdoors, children and others can be affected with a "contact high" when marijuana is being smoked.

HF 4757 and SF 4782 would also rightly accelerate the transition of the medical cannabis and hemp-derived enforcement divisions to OCM's purview to July 1 of this year. It makes sense for the regulation, operations, licensing and enforcement of the products to be handled by one agency.

Another sensible change would increase the number of plants that may be grown at home. One bill would allow patients enrolled in the state's medical cannabis program to grow up to 16 plants (instead of the eight in current law) at their private residence.

As Briner points out, just over 90 years after American Prohibition ended, Minnesota and other states still have proposed liquor law tweaks almost every year. That likely will be the case with cannabis as lawmakers figure out what is right for Minnesotans as the industry develops.