Updated: Aug. 4, 4:10 p.m. | Posted: Aug. 1, 4 a.m.
Cannabis is now legal for adults 21 and older to use and possess in Minnesota, making it the 23rd state in the country to legalize cannabis for recreational use.
The first dispensary selling marijuana for recreational use is now open and selling to people on the Red Lake Nation in north-central Minnesota.
Here’s what we know so far about the legalization of recreational cannabis in Minnesota. Check back for updates.
When did Minnesota legalize cannabis?
Minnesota lawmakers approved a bill in 2014 that legalized the limited use of some forms of medical marijuana, and products became available in 2015. That program started with oils, pills and other non-smokable forms. Leaf form was authorized for that program in 2021.
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In 2022, Minnesota legalized the sale and consumption of edibles containing small amounts of hemp-derived THC.
On May 30, Gov. Tim Walz signed an expansive cannabis legalization bill into law, allowing the recreational use of cannabis for adults 21 and older starting Aug. 1. The Legislature passed the bill earlier that month, with a handful of Republicans joining a nearly united Democratic vote in favor.
When and where will recreational dispensaries open?
Dispensaries can’t open until the state figures out a licensing system for the businesses, so they won’t open for at least another year — some estimate in early 2025.
However, tribal governments don’t have to wait for the state’s licensing system to open dispensaries. Minnesota’s 11 Native American tribal nations are sovereign, meaning they can operate independently from state laws and regulations.
The first recreational marijuana dispensary opened Aug. 1 on the Red Lake Nation in north central Minnesota. The Red Lake dispensary is called NativeCare and has been providing medical marijuana to band members and non-members since April. Anyone 21 and older will be able to shop there.
The White Earth Nation became the state’s second reservation to begin selling recreational cannabis. White Earth approved medicinal cannabis in 2020 and has been developing its growing program for over a year. The Waabigwan Mashkiki dispensary is in Mahnomen on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota.
All the cannabis sold by White Earth is grown locally about 100 yards behind the dispensary in what locals refer to as the “old potato-chip factory,” a 30,000-square-foot facility which includes two flower rooms, a nursery and a closed room, two drying rooms, a processing room and a vault.
White Earth Chair Michael Fairbanks told MPR News in late July that White Earth may soon enter into agreements with other tribal nations across the state to supply them with cannabis products for retail.
Fairbanks also confirmed that White Earth, along with other tribal nations in Minnesota, are negotiating a compact with the state that would allow tribes to operate dispensaries off-reservation.
What is legal for me to have and do?
Even though recreational dispensaries aren’t widely available for Minnesotans to buy cannabis, people are allowed to possess, use and grow it.
Possession of two ounces or less in public is no longer a crime. People would also be allowed to have up to 8 grams of cannabis concentrate, edibles with up to 800 milligrams of THC, and two pounds of cannabis at home. They’ll also be able to grow up to eight marijuana plants. Only four can be mature enough to be flowering at once. Exceeding the limit could bring a civil penalty of $500 per plant.
The law allows for use by adults 21 and older, but there are limits. It can’t be: on public school grounds; where smoking is otherwise prohibited; in places where smoke or vapor could be inhaled by a minor; or behind the wheel of a car or boat.
And without a license to do so, selling it could result in escalating criminal and financial sanctions based on the amount illegally sold.
It is legal to give cannabis to someone 21 or older for free.
Some people prepared their home-grow setups in advance so they could begin growing cannabis at home starting Aug. 1.
How can I buy cannabis seeds?
State seed law requires businesses to undergo occasional testing to verify that information about their cannabis seeds stacks up to what they claim on a label. But that process has lagged since the state hasn’t yet been able to start testing.
“We haven't started accepting things for testing. And in Minnesota, we require things to be labeled with a test that's able to substantiate those labeled claims,” said Michael Merriman, seed regulatory supervisor at the state plant protection division. “That's to protect the consumers of seed in the state.”
Merriman said that about 30 businesses have applied for state permits to label cannabis seeds so far. Minnesotans can legally buy cannabis seeds labeled in other states. Merriman says that’s frustrated some retailers who would like to offer more Minnesota-grown seeds right away.
“I think it's going to be difficult for in-state people to work since we're still waiting on rules and the Office of Cannabis Management to get established. People aren't actually able to start growing plants yet and selling plants and that's where they'll get their seed sources from,” Merriman said.
One such business is CannaJoy, a Minneapolis-based seed bank. Co-founder Bob Walloch said the company will start selling cannabis seeds today and will offer home growing classes soon. While it’s been illegal to home grow, Walloch said people did it anyway. And now, they can share best practices openly.
“We think that now that we're all out of our own individual, little tiny silos everywhere, it's just really going to be important to help bring that knowledge to other people,” Walloch said.
What is the tax rate on cannabis in Minnesota?
Adults buying cannabis gummies, seltzers and other retail products in Minnesota pay a 10 percent tax. This is lower than a lot of other places where it is sold legally.
Eighty percent of proceeds are expected to cover state costs of regulation while the remaining 20 percent will spill down to local governments.
Products sold on tribal land are exempt but could include taxes issued by tribal government. The Red Lake Nation is not charging tax because all profits are already going directly to the tribe.
How will the state regulate the legal cannabis industry?
Money from taxing cannabis sales will flow from the state’s general fund to the new Office of Cannabis Management to get it up and running. This year that amount will be $21.6 million, followed by $17.9 million next year. The office will set cannabis industry standards, prohibit packaging that could be attractive to children and set personal use limits.
It will eventually license marijuana dispensaries, but it’s expected to take up longer for dispensaries to open — around a year to 18 months, the law’s authors say. The state’s medical marijuana system will continue.
The money will also fund public health awareness campaigns, drug recognition evaluator training, startup funding for new cannabis retailers and producers, a state board tasked with expunging prior low-level marijuana charges, as well as research on cannabis and roadside testing to detect potential impairment.
“There's a whole lot that needs to be done, not the least of which is to also hire the 100 to 125 people that are going to staff this office that are going to be the experts in inspections and licensing and technical assistance,” Charlene Briner, interim director of the Minnesota Office of Cannabis Management, said in late July.
How will law enforcement monitor impaired driving involving cannabis?
And as Minnesota State Patrol chief Colonel Matt Langer says, “It's illegal to drive impaired, regardless of what substance you're on.”
Minnesota plans to dramatically build up the ranks of officers with skills as a drug recognition evaluator, or DRE. There were about 300 DREs across the state as of July, with one-third of them working for the State Patrol and the rest for local police or sheriff’s departments. The plan is to certify up to 100 more in the next year toward a goal of having 500 before long.
For marijuana, there’s no standard breath test to tell if somebody is above a set limit like the 0.08 percent threshold for alcohol.
In September, Minnesota will begin a yearlong experiment with an oral fluid test to detect marijuana, but that won’t be admissible as evidence for now. So DWI enforcement for marijuana will lean heavily on squad or bodycam video and officer observations.
“That roadside interaction and the driving conduct is really critical for all drug-impaired driving,” said the State Patrol’s Langer. “Cannabis is unique in that we have to prove impairment, not just the presence.”
Can I transport cannabis in my car?
Langer also said people need to be aware of both the cap of two ounces of possession in public and how they’re moving it around.
“If you’re growing it at home and just transporting it in ziplock baggies, which would be legal under a certain amount come August 1, you got to pay attention to the open-container law because the only way that you can transport that as if it’s in the farthest point away from you,” Langer said. “Keep it simple. It’s just like a 12-ounce can of beer; if it’s cracked open, you can’t have it in your console.”
In other words, have it in the trunk, not the glove compartment.
And it is illegal to transport it across state lines. Here’s what state Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, who sponsored the bill, told MPR News on Aug. 1:
“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.”
Will recreational cannabis sales and rules vary by city?
Yes. Local municipalities are allowed to temporarily restrict recreational marijuana sales until Jan. 1, 2025. At least 10 Minnesota cities and towns have adopted or are considering adopting similar measures.
Local governments will also be able to limit the number of retail shops tied to their population. There are local zoning ordinances that will also apply. Some decisions about where pot can be used and sold are left to municipalities.
“The law allows cities to pass an ordinance making it a petty misdemeanor to use cannabis in public. So cities are trying to figure that out: whether or not they want to limit where cannabis can be used within their city,” said Kyle Hartnett, assistant research manager with the League of Minnesota Cities.
The limits would be just like rules on where you can smoke cigarettes in public spaces. Already, local officials in Duluth, Alexandria, Minn., and Detroit Lakes, Minn., are considering such measures.
And then come longer-term decisions about where retailers can open, Hartnett said.
Hartnett said cities are considering questions such as: “Where are these businesses going to be set up within our city? Where are the dispensaries going to be? Are we going to have manufacturers, processors?”
For instance, Hartnett said the law allows cities to limit the number of retailers to one for every 12,500 people in the city, with a minimum of one dispensary.
Can employers prohibit the use of marijuana by their employees?
“So we specified a group of safety-related jobs. If you care for children, if you care for medical patients, if you drive a truck, if you drive a school bus, sort of those safety-dependent jobs — and there's a list of them in the bill — then your employer can still do regular drug testing. They do have to let you know that they will continue to do regular drug testing or if they're going to.”
“But if you have a job outside of that, so you work in retail or you work in manufacturing or at a warehouse and you are not in one of those safety-related jobs, you are able to use cannabis in your off time.”
“Obviously, you can't use it while at work, your employer can still prohibit that and just like you couldn't show up to work intoxicated on alcohol, you also can’t and your employer could fire you for showing up intoxicated on marijuana.”
Will cannabis-related criminal records be forgiven?
For people who had run afoul of the law before, those prior marijuana convictions could get a fresh look.
Those with low-level offenses — petty misdemeanors for having small amounts in your possession or a car, for instance — can expect those records to be automatically sealed. That process starts in August but might take time to carry out because Minnesota authorities say they’re working with national criminal databases in some instances.
These convictions often show up on background checks for employment, housing or other matters.
People with more complicated cases — those where the marijuana charge was in conjunction with another offense — will find an easier pathway for review of records and potential expungement by a newly created board.
Cases involving considerable violence, dangerous weapons or other severe risk probably won’t qualify.
The goal is to have a lot of this work done in eight to 12 months.
There are an estimated 66,000 people with misdemeanor marijuana records eligible for automatic expungement, the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension told MPR News this spring. The number includes arrests, dropped charges, records where a case was won or dismissed. An estimated 9,818 of those people have actual convictions.
The BCA also estimates 230,000 felony marijuana records would be eligible for review, 83,909 of which are convictions.
It’s unclear if and how legalized marijuana in Minnesota would impact people who are in prison on marijuana convictions. As of April 20, there were eight people incarcerated in Minnesota’s state prison system whose only active sentence is a marijuana possession sentence, according to the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
Are hemp-derived THC products going away?
Minnesotans will still be able to use and sell the hemp-derived THC products that became legal in 2022. In fact, the law now lets liquor stores sell hemp-derived edibles.
The law that took effect Aug. 1 legalizing marijuana for recreational use by adults 21 and older also made changes to the state’s existing hemp-derived THC rules. Minnesota was the first state to allow the sale and use of hemp-derived THC products where alcoholic beverages were already on offer.
As part of an attempt to add some guardrails this year, lawmakers passed new regulations that more clearly define what restaurants, bars and breweries can serve. A pending update limits use of both hemp-derived THC products and marijuana to adults age 21 and older, but it says establishments can’t serve someone both alcohol and THC products during the same visit.
The proposed changes aren’t scheduled to take effect until 2025, but some businesses are already making changes or dropping the products.
Does this impact the state’s medical-marijuana program?
The state’s medical marijuana system will continue.
While it has been the case in other states, it’s currently unclear if or when Minnesota’s two medical-marijuana providers — Leafline Labs (RISE) and Vireo Health of Minnesota (Green Goods) — will enter the recreational business. It’s also not clear if the two medical cannabis providers will be able to get licensed faster or easier than new companies.
Minnesotans can still sign up for the state’s medical marijuana program, and as of July 1 the program is free — there is no longer an enrollment fee collected annually. Cancer, chronic pain, sleep apnea and PTSD are a few of the qualifying conditions.
Some changes to the state’s medical-marijuana program will begin March 1, 2025.
Will cannabis be allowed at the Minnesota State Fair in 2023?
No. The fair will prohibit smoking cannabis on its grounds this year. The fair has legal autonomy similar to a municipality and can set parameters within its area.
And State Fair CEO Renee Alexander told MPR News in July that means no lighting up — at least for now.
“The smoking of marijuana is still not allowed in public, it’s still prohibited in public. So we will follow those guidelines just like other public places will,” she said. “We're not moving forward with any type of sales or anything at this point as it relates to marijuana. We'll give it some time.”
The State Fair board could weigh rule changes later that allow for marijuana use and consumption at the fair, Alexander said. But with limited infrastructure for enforcement, she said it won’t be allowed in 2023.