This is the first post of many to analyze Minnesota’s recreational adult use cannabis legislation.

Authors: David M. Aafedt, Gerald H. Fornwald, Peter G. Economou

We are within days of adult recreational cannabis officially becoming a law here in the North Star State.[1] Competing bills have woven their way through dozens of committees in both the Minnesota House and Senate, and over the last few months, the differences have begun to dissipate, much like the smoke from Spicoli’s van once the doors open to meet the fresh California air.

With an entirely new legalized industry comes the need for a strong agency, with broad authority to administer and enforce these new laws in the State of Minnesota. This new agency – the Office of Cannabis Management (“The Office”) – will be charged with overseeing this nascent industry and all of its moving parts, with the directive by the Minnesota Legislature to, among other things, promote the public health and welfare, protect public safety, eliminate the cannabis black market, and meet the market demand for cannabis.

To carry out its legislative mandate, The Office will be asked to issue various types of licenses (e.g., cultivator, manufacturer, retailers, etc.); establish standards for product testing, packaging, and labeling; authorize cannabis research and studies; establish cannabis potency limits; prevent unauthorized access to those under 21 years of age; and to carry out traditional regulatory and law enforcement functions, such as conducting investigations, carrying out seizures, collecting civil penalties, and taking other traditional regulatory enforcement actions. Wherever The Office’s authority or the substantive law appears a bit “thin,” fret not; the Legislature has granted The Office with broad rulemaking authority, including “expedited” rulemaking for the first two years of its existence to get the program started.

The good news is that when The Office opens its doors, it will have the benefit of almost ten years of regulatory experience from Minnesota’s Medical Cannabis program, and the talented individuals who have overseen this program since its inception. The Medical Cannabis team will be folded into The Office, and we are willing to place a (private social) bet that these seasoned regulators will take on significant responsibility within the new agency.

Last but not least, The Office will not be asked to stand alone. The Legislature has also created the Cannabis Advisory Council to assist in developing cannabis policy, including reviewing, examining, and making state cannabis policy recommendations, and generally reviewing cannabis industry developments. The Cannabis Advisory Council membership will represent a diverse set of backgrounds, including existing state agency personnel, law enforcement, agriculture, health care, labor, manufacturing, substance use treatment, patient advocates, and many other constituencies. It, too, is going to have a heavy workload for the foreseeable future.

As we can all appreciate, it will be no small task to undertake any of these numerous, new responsibilities, much less to flip the switch on an entire industry and regulate a market that was previously a criminal enterprise. We applaud the Legislature and the Governor for their resolve in moving this legislation forward, and to those individuals who will take on these awesome new responsibilities.

As the pieces of The Office’s regulatory puzzle get put into place, we will continue to provide you with updates. Of course, if you have any questions, please reach out to any member of our Cannabis Team.

[1] The road to legalization in Minnesota has been a long one. It has taken State leadership (including some of its strongest current supporters) a long time to get on board, since Colorado and other states kicked off the legalization discussion more than ten years ago. Without question, though, arriving at the precipice of adult-use legalization has been a Herculean effort led by House Commerce Chair Zack Stephenson, Rep. Heather Edelson, Sen. Lindsey Port, Sen. Erin Murphy, and Sen. Clare Oumou Verbeten, as well as those who championed this effort before their respective retirements, former Majority Leader Ryan Winkler and former Senate Minority Leader Melisa Lopez Franzen.

April 27, 2023