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Minnesota became the 23rd state to legalize recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21 in 2023. Saturday marks the first 4/20 — a symbolically important date in marijuana lore — where the drug is legal for recreational use in the state. There are several events across the state to help celebrate.

The long road to legality in Minnesota dates back to 1976, and it is still a work in progress, with recreational dispensaries not expected until sometime next year at the earliest. Here are some key moments in the journey.


The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse issued a report advocating that federal criminal law was "too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in efforts to discourage use."


Minnesota lessened penalties around cannabis possession, via a 1976 statute that said anyone in possession of "a small amount of marijuana is guilty of a petty misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $100 and participation in a drug education program." Municipalities were barred from passing laws more strict than what was enforced by the state.


The Legal Marijuana Now Party was established with the sole purpose of opposing marijuana prohibition in law. The party was successful enough in the past decade to earn major party status, but now finds itself fighting to hold on to that distinction.


The Minnesota Legislature legalized the use of marijuana to treat certain medical conditions after a long debate. Then-Gov. Mark Dayton initially opposed the push, insisting that he would only sign a bill that was supported by groups representing law enforcement agencies. Supporters eventually won him over, and Dayton signed the medical marijuana bill on May 29, 2014, making Minnesota the 22nd state to legalize the drug for medical purposes.


Registration and distribution of medical marijuana began June 1. The first clinics were in Eagan and Minneapolis. Minnesota's medical marijuana program was said to be one of the most tightly regulated in the nation. Marijuana was only to be sold in pills, oils and liquids, and not as a smokable plant. The state limited access to patients suffering from one of nine medical conditions and required certification by a doctor or other health care professional.


Tim Walz, at the time a member of the U.S. House, defeated Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson in the 2018 gubernatorial race. Along with Walz, the Democratic Party won the majority in the state House, while Republicans maintained their one-vote majority in the state Senate. Part of Walz's transition plan included exploring cost options for a legalization bill.


A bipartisan group of state lawmakers sponsored a bill that would make it legal for adults over 21 to possess, grow and purchase limited quantities of marijuana. The bill never made it to a full vote in either chamber.


The Legislature unexpectedly passed a law permitting the sale and purchase of edibles and beverages that contain up to 5 milligrams of hemp-derived tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per serving and 50 milligrams per package. Months later, Walz was re-elected with Democrats fully in control of the Legislature.


Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, and Sen. Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville, introduced a recreational marijuana legalization bill as the state's 93rd legislative session got underway. After months of consideration and debate, the House passed the bill in a bipartisan vote, and in the Senate with only Democrats in support. Walz signed the legislation on May 30, making Minnesota the 23rd state to legalize recreational marijuana for adults over 21.

2025 and beyond

Minnesota's newly created Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) said applications for business licenses will be available once a process of rule-making is complete. OCM expects applications for licenses to be available in early 2025, but Minnesotans may not expect a well-supplied market until 2026.

Alex Karwowski is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune. Reach him at