Minnesota became the 23rd state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana for adults after Gov. Tim Walz signed the measure into law on Tuesday.
Starting Aug. 1, marijuana use and possession will be decriminalized and home-growing of cannabis plants will become legal for people 21 and older. The state will also begin expunging marijuana convictions from Minnesotans' records in August. But the start of retail sales is likely at least a year away.
The bill signing marked a watershed moment for Minnesota, which legalized medical cannabis nearly a decade ago but had seen efforts to allow recreational marijuana repeatedly stall at the State Capitol.
"This has been a long journey," Walz said. "I assure Minnesotans that a lot of thought has gone into this. A lot of the things we've learned in other states are incorporated into how we do this."
The bill was the subject of months of legislative debate and more than two dozen committee hearings.
A few dozen cannabis legalization advocates stood behind Walz on Tuesday and cheered as he signed the bill. Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura and his wife, Terry, were among them.
Ventura, a longtime proponent of marijuana legalization, recalled how the drug helped stop his wife's seizures about a decade ago. The Venturas obtained marijuana illegally from Colorado until Minnesota set up its medical cannabis program.
"We didn't want any families to go through what the first lady and I went through," Ventura said. "Now, today, they will never have to."
"This is a huge day in our family's life," the former governor said.
What happens next
In August, Minnesotans 21 and older will be allowed to use marijuana in their private residence or yard. They can possess up to 2 ounces of it in public and as much as 2 pounds in their homes.
They will also be allowed to grow up to eight cannabis plants in their homes, though no more than four can be mature and flowering at a time.
Kurtis Hanna, a lobbyist for the Minnesota chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, advocated for legalization for more than a decade. He said he was "ecstatic" to see Walz sign the bill.
"This is monumental," Hanna said. "I love that it has home-grow. We are the eleventh state in this country to do that, and very few that have gone through the Legislature have allowed individuals the freedom to grow this plant in their own house."
Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a national nonprofit that opposes legalization, issued a statement Tuesday criticizing Walz for signing the bill. Kim Bemis, chair of the nonprofit's Minnesota chapter, said "the data demonstrate the clear and serious risks associated with commercial pot and THC products."
"People don't want pot shops in their communities, and they don't want more drugs getting into the hands of their children," Bemis said.
It will likely take a year or longer before the first retail dispensary gets set up. A website for the state's new Office of Cannabis Management — the agency that will be tasked with licensing marijuana and hemp businesses and overseeing the market — states that "the legislation proposes that retail sales for adult use cannabis in Minnesota begin in the first quarter of 2025."
"All the benefits that the legitimate marketplace offers, that will probably take 12 to 18 months ... before you see retail locations open," said state Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, who sponsored the bill in the House.
The state will begin working to automatically expunge misdemeanor marijuana convictions from Minnesotans' records this August. The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has said it could take the agency up to a year to finish expunging all the records.
A Cannabis Expungement Board will be established to review felony marijuana offenses for possible expungement on a case-by-case basis.
One immediate change in the new law takes effect Wednesday, one day after the bill signing. Liquor stores will now be allowed to sell lower-potency, hemp-derived THC edibles and beverages. Many liquor stores had already been selling THC seltzers made by local breweries although previous law didn't allow it.
A change for patients enrolled in Minnesota's medical cannabis program takes effect July 1. The new law eliminates the $200 enrollment fee for new patients.
Walz said he's confident in his administration's ability to set up the new state cannabis office and the licensing process for cannabis businesses. The governor said he plans to hire someone to lead the Office of Cannabis Management "this summer" and encouraged anyone interested to apply.
"We've had a few people show interest in this already," Walz said.
Leili Fatehi, campaign manager for the pro-legalization MN is Ready Coalition, worked with lawmakers throughout the year on this bill. She said she hopes Walz will appoint someone who is committed to eliminating the illicit market, advancing social equity, undoing the harms of marijuana prohibition and ensuring that Minnesota has a "craft, small-business-oriented cannabis industry."
State legislators will need to continually tweak the law over time, as they have with alcohol laws, said Maren Schroeder, MN is Ready's coalition director. She and Fatehi said they would like to see legislators lower the criminal penalties for people who possess more marijuana than what's legally allowed under the new law.
"I think possession as a felony, generally, is a problem," Schroeder said. "These are adults. We don't have a limit on how much beer you can have in your house."