Cannabis in Minnesota: What’s legal Aug. 1 and what’s not?

Marijuana plants
Marijuana plants for medicinal use grow at LeafLine Labs in Cottage Grove, Minn.
Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News 2015

Minnesota’s new recreational cannabis law goes into effect on Aug. 1, though many of the details and some provisions will take months to roll out.

Effective immediately, people age 21 and older can possess, use and grow cannabis under certain conditions without breaking any Minnesota laws.

MPR News host Angela Davis talked about what’s allowed, what’s not and what’s next for cannabis with Luke Hellier, the mayor of Lakeville, Minn., and Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, the chief sponsor of the House bill to legalize marijuana. 

woman and two men in radio studio
MPR News host Angela Davis (left) talks with Lakeville mayor Luke Hellier and Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, about Minnesota's new cannabis law on Tuesday in an MPR News studio in St. Paul.
Maja Beckstrom | MPR News

Marijuana possession and use

Rep. Stephenson: Starting today, people can have up to two ounces of cannabis on their person, wherever they are, and up to two pounds at home.

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Everywhere in the state people have the ability to smoke cannabis in their own home, to use it on private property, or at cannabis events that are licensed and put on by cities.

Growing cannabis

Rep. Stephenson: The law says that Minnesotans can grow up to eight plants, four of which can be flowering at any time. It’s important that you keep your plants away from where the public can access them. So, a lot of people will be growing indoors. That’s great. If you’re growing outside you need to do it in your backyard or in a locked area.

The state law doesn’t say that it’s banned to grow inside apartment buildings or condos. That would be up to the management of the building.

Buying from Red Lake Nation

Rep. Stephenson: Red Lake Nation is a sovereign nation and they have control over what they do on their land. So while the state of Minnesota is still coming up with the rules and regulations for sale on Minnesota lands, the tribe decided to move forward with sales on their own sovereign lands.

Possessing marijuana paraphernalia

Rep. Stephenson: It is not illegal to have marijuana paraphernalia in Minnesota as of today.

Smoking around children

Rep. Stephenson: It is illegal to smoke or vape cannabis anywhere where children are going to inhale the smoke. So even if it’s your own house, if you’ve got kids around, you can’t smoke.

It’s also never legal to use cannabis in a school or anywhere where kids might inhale the smoke.

People under 21 using or possessing cannabis

Rep. Stephenson: It was never the intent to legalize the use of cannabis for children and anyone who looks at the law or reads the law can see that very clearly. It says in there in explicit terms, that for people under the age of 21, it is illegal for them to use or possess cannabis. It is a felony crime to sell or give cannabis to anyone under the age of 21. We devoted significant resources to prevention and treatment of people who are using cannabis under the age of 21.

Smoking in places where the Clean Indoor Air Act is enforced

Rep. Stephenson: There's the Clean Indoor Air Act — this is the smoking ban that passed, you know, 15 years ago — that still in effect is unchanged by the law. Not just tobacco. Anywhere where the Clean Indoor Air Act applies, where the smoking ban applies, you can’t smoke or vape cannabis, as well, starting today. So that’s, you know, bars, restaurants, but also the common areas of buildings.

Smoking in multifamily buildings

Rep. Stephenson: There can’t be any smoking or vaporizing of cannabis in multifamily buildings or apartment buildings. It’s a flat ban on that. And it’s basically the concern about secondhand smoke that you don’t want to be having the smell your neighbors are exposed to your neighbor’s smoke.

There is an exception to that rule for medical patients. So if you have a prescription, you can use your medicine at home, even if you live in a multifamily unit.

Giving away cannabis with a purchase

Rep. Stephenson: You can give small amounts of cannabis or the plants to other people. What you can't do is give it as a sort of add-on to some other commercial purchase. We’ve seen this in other states, where the workaround to not having legalized cannabis is: ‘Well, I’ll sell you this T-shirt for 50 bucks, let’s say, and you also get a little bit of cannabis for free alongside that.’ You can't do that.

Transporting cannabis outside of Minnesota

Rep. Stephenson: Cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, and what that means is you can’t move it across state lines. The practical impact of that is all of the cannabis that gets sold, once we have a legal and regulated market in Minnesota, will have to be grown here in Minnesota, which is a real economic development opportunity for people who want to start small businesses growing or selling cannabis.

Consuming marijuana with a federal license

Rep. Stephenson: So that could be a truck driver or someone who flies an airplane. The federal law does not allow for any consumption of cannabis at all and you could put your federal license at risk. So you do need to be careful and exercise some personal responsibility.

Using cannabis in your car

Rep. Stephenson: We have an open container law for alcohol and we have a similar law for cannabis, which means that you need to put it in the trunk or away from the driver. It’s not okay to consume cannabis ever in a car. Even if you’re the passenger, just like you can’t drink beer while someone else is driving the car, you can’t consume cannabis while someone else is driving the car.

What’s in the works

City ordinances

Rep. Stephenson: I always say Minnesota is a big place; the legislature wasn’t going to figure out for every square inch where you could smoke it. So we’re letting cities and counties make decisions about spaces that they control public parks, city, sidewalks, things like that. And we are seeing cities around the state adopt rules around that, which is what we expected.

Mayor Luke Hellier: The [Lakeville] council decided that we really want to do a couple of things. One is to move forward and not allow smoking and vaping in parks and on sidewalks, you know, public areas. And in fact, Lakeville also didn’t have a ban on tobacco in our parks. So we’re actually doing both. So now no smoking of any kind will be in parks once we vote on Aug. 7. So that’s kind of the path that we decided to go on and it really comes from the fact that we had business owners concerned about what public consumption around their business would mean.

Police enforcement and cannabis training

Mayor Hellier: Because there’s not a test like a breathalyzer to be able to determine if someone is under the influence, we have to really rely on the training of our police and law enforcement partners. And so our police department will continue to go through that. They do some cannabis learning now, but we’re gonna have to increase that. Probably every dollar we get post 2025 related to the tax revenue will probably go to training our police officers for that type of safety. So I think it’s gonna be a challenge. I really do. I don’t think that there’s one answer to how you determine if somebody is under the influence while they're driving. And so I think the courts will probably also test over that.

Rep. Stephenson: We devote a significant amount of money from the tax on cannabis towards training law enforcement officers to become what are called “drug recognition experts.” So people who are on the side of the road and can look for clues from people’s reactions, maybe their eyes are bloodshot, and make an assessment over whether someone’s impaired. So this is a problem that we know how to solve in the law enforcement community and we will solve it because it is illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis. And if you do it, you will be arrested and you will be charged with a crime.

Dispensaries, retail shops to open statewide

Rep. Stephenson: There’s a big process that has to be undertaken between doing those rules and regulations that we talked about earlier to make sure that the cannabis that’s sold is safe. And also, then there’s a dispensary licensing process where people have to apply for a license and this state has to make sure that people meet the criteria and then issue a license. So I would expect probably an 18-month time period between now and when those licenses are issued.

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